Convicted murderer sues former Island County jail director

Joshua Lambert stands in his cell in Island County jail two years ago. He had a cell to himself because he was acting as his own attorney and had stacks of legal documents and books.

An Oak Harbor man who murdered both of his grandfathers has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the former chief of the Island County jail.

Joshua Lambert, who’s serving a life sentence, alleges that he was improperly held in solitary confinement, his legal paperwork confiscated, he didn’t receive medication to control the voices in his head and he was punished in retaliation for assaulting people.

Lambert filed the civil rights complaint, written in pencil, against De Dennis, the former jail chief, in U.S. District Court in July. Dennis resigned in June in the wake of another inmate’s death in the jail as the result of dehydration.

The Island County commissioners said the county will handle the litigation since Dennis was acting as a county employee, according to Budget Director Elaine Marlow.

Lambert stabbed his two 80-year-old grandfathers to death at their separate North Whidbey residences four years ago. He was also convicted of kidnapping his great aunt and several other crimes.

In response to Lambert’s lawsuit, the county’s attorney filed “an answer” denying all of Lambert’s allegations. The answer also states that  Dennis acted in good faith and is entitled to absolute or qualified immunity.

Lambert acted as his own attorney during the lengthy pre-trial hearings and part of the trial. The judge ordered an attorney to take over his defense after he got into a courtroom fight with guards halfway through the trial.

Dennis ordered all of Lambert’s legal paperwork to be removed from his cell after the judge ruled that Lambert could no longer represent himself, the lawsuit indicates.

Chris Garden, the interim jail chief, noted that the jail staff made extraordinary efforts to accommodate Lambert since he was acting as his own attorney. He was even given his own cell because of his volumes of paperwork and legal books.

Lambert was evaluated at Western State Hospital and a mental-health expert determined that he wasn’t suffering from schizophrenia, as Lambert claimed.

In his lawsuit, Lambert writes that Dennis directed the staff to confiscate all his clothing and bedding in a cold room for 24 hours “in retaliation” after Lambert assaulted someone. He also claims his food, clothing and bedding were “restricted” at another time in retaliation for an assault; he was only given “finger food” for a time, he wrote.

Lambert is seeking $500 an hour for the time he spent without clothing or bedding; $10,000 for his legal records being confiscated; $100 for each day he was in solitary confinement; $100 per day for clothing, bedding and food restrictions; and $100 for each day he was denied medication for the voices.

Lambert is also appealing his conviction in state appellate court.