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Tacoma jury awards $2.9 million to family of man killed by son

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — A jury in Tacoma has found Washington state responsible in the death of a Tacoma man whose son killed him nine months after being released from a state psychiatric hospital.

Jurors on Thursday awarded $2.9 million in damages to the family of Robert Meline, 56, who was killed in 2012 while sleeping.

His family sued the state and Western State Hospital in 2013, arguing that it wrongly released Robert’s son, Jonathan Meline, from involuntary civil-commitment, The News Tribune reported. They said officials knew the son suffered from delusions and violent behavior.

His parents were uneasy about the decision but agreed to let Jonathan into their home after being told the only other option was the streets.

Jurors found the hospital was negligent in handling his release.

Attorneys for the state argued that the younger Meline showed signs of stability prior to his release, and that the father’s slaying wasn’t foreseeable.

Records revealed during the trial, however, showed that psychiatrists at the hospital believed Jonathan was still dangerous, not ready for release into the community and likely to harm others.

Nine months after his released, Jonathan Meline was charged with killing his father with a hatchet. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity and is at Western.

Outside the courtroom, a number of jurors surrounded Kim Meline and embraced her. Some jurors spoke to Meline and her daughters through tears.

Kim Meline said after Thursday’s verdict that her son should have been kept in an institution and that she was thrilled with the verdict.

One of her attorneys, Nathan Roberts, said he hope the jury’s ruling would spur changes at Western.

“We hope that Western State will receive the message loud and clear and make the changes they need to for community safety,” he said.