Early in his legal career, McCain represented the family of the late Calvin Champion, a 32-year-old, non-verbal Nashville man with severe autism who depended wholly on others for care. In April 2000, Champion died of positional asphyxiation after three Metro Nashville police officers pepper-sprayed him and restrained him on his stomach for several minutes.
After a jury trial, the Champion family was awarded $4.4 million in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. The police officers appealed. McCain successfully defended the verdict at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals when he argued and briefed the case before a panel of judges. Champion v. Outlook Nashville, Inc., et al. went on to become a reference point in cases involving police brutality and wrongful death by positional asphyxiation.
Currently, McCain is the lead attorney for the family of the late Cary A. Owsley of Columbus, Indiana. The case involves Owsley’s suspicious death in April 2013 and the flawed investigation that followed.
Owsley died from a gunshot wound to the chest. The coroner and several Bartholomew County Sheriff’s deputies appeared on the scene, including one who had been married to Owsley’s estranged wife. Despite his training and the circumstances, the coroner did not order an autopsy. Rather, Owsley was buried.
In July 2013, the sheriff suspended the deputies for violation of protocol during the Owsley death investigation. During the months that ensued, Owsley’s sister, Cheryl Owsley Jackson, filed and was granted a petition to exhume her brother’s remains to have an autopsy performed to determine the manner of death.
Two forensic pathologists performed the post-mortem examination. They agreed that the manner of death was “undetermined.”
In March 2015, the county’s current sheriff requested that the FBI review the case along with the sheriff’s complete file, which had never been disclosed, and additional information from Owsley’s family. The U.S. Department of Justice is considering whether to fully investigate the alleged cover-up of Bartholomew County officials.
For media coverage of the Owsley case, click here.