torture | 

Man found dead in prison cell had sued jail for playing ‘Baby Shark’ on repeat for hours

In the Baby Shark lawsuit, prisoners alleged how they were put in a 'standing stress position' and forced to listen to song on a loop for hours

John Basco

John Basco (48) was found unresponsive in his cell

Baby Shark was described as irritating

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

A man found dead in his Oklahoma County prison cell had been part of a lawsuit against the jail that had allegedly forced prisoners to repeatedly listen to the children’s song ‘Baby Shark’ for hours.

John Basco (48) was found unresponsive in his cell early on Sunday morning, Oklahoma County Detention Center officials said in a news release.

He was pronounced dead after jail workers began lifesaving efforts, they said.

Basco’s death is the 14th this year at the jail, which has faced criticism over inmate deaths, escapes and other incidents.

Basco, who was booked into the jail on Thursday on a drug trafficking complaint, was among a group of inmates who had sued the county in federal court for allegedly being handcuffed to a wall and forced to listen to the song Baby Shark on repeat for hours during separate incidents in 2019.

A jail lieutenant retired and two detention officers were fired in connection with the incidents, and all three face misdemeanor charges.

Basco's attorney, Cameron Spradling, told The Oklahoman that he found the circumstances surrounding Basco's death “disturbing”. He has now called for the preservation of all evidence as the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation probe of it unfolds.

“I'm really bothered by this,” Spradling said. “One of the Baby Shark victims is conveniently dead within three days of his arrival at the jail. How does that happen? District Attorney David Prater just lost one of his witnesses for the upcoming criminal trial. For me, this one does not pass the smell test.”

According to Oklahoma prison records, Basco had a long history of criminal convictions in Oklahoma County dating back to the mid 1990s, mostly for drug, property and firearms crimes.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for a second-degree murder conviction in 2000 and was released in 2007, records show.

In the Baby Shark lawsuit, Daniel Hendrick, Joseph Mitchell and John Basco alleged how they were taken from their cells at the Oklahoma County Detention Center by two officers, put in a 'standing stress position' with their arms handcuffed behind their backs, and were then forced to listen to the popular children's song on a loop for hours.

The suit called the conduct “tantamount to torture,” and compared the conduct to the heavy metal music played at Guantanamo Bay “as an enhanced interrogation” technique to weaken Iraqi captives' resolve.

Baby Shark was described as irritating

It also cited academic studies as to why the popular children's song by Pinkfong, that went viral in 2019, is particularly irritating.

Lawyers for the since-released inmates argued that they “posed no threat to the officers or anyone else” and were “not actively resisting any lawful command” when they were forced to listen to the music in November and December 2019.

The lawyers argue that the “prolonged restraint ... under the conditions described herein, is tantamount to torture, was excessive and not rationally related to any legitimate governmental or penological purpose.”

The suit further claims: “This history of mistreatment was well known to supervisors at the jail, but no action was taken to stop the conduct and no reasonable measures were taken to alleviate the risk of harm to detainees like plaintiffs.”

It claims these actions were “open, obvious and repeated. Yet, no one from Oklahoma County, the sheriff's office and the criminal justice authority 'stepped into take remedial action.

“This exemplifies a systemic and deep-seated failure to train and supervise, with respect to the most basic aspects of correctional operations and constitutional conditions of confinement.”

Not addressing those issues, they added, made them 'deliberately indifferent to citizens' health and safety.”

The former detainees were each seeking $75,000 in retribution.


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