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FORT MYERS (CBSMiami/AP) — Cruel and unusual punishment is focus of a federal trial which gets underway in Ft. Myers this week.

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In 2008, Charlotte County Jail guards doused Stephen McNeeley, who has schizophrenia, with three cans of pepper spray, strapped him into a restraint chair and left him burning for more than three hours.

The question at trial will be whether they violated McNeely’s Eight Amendment right which protects against cruel and unusual punishment.

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The state’s Department of Corrections prohibits such treatment of prisoners with mental illness as does the federal government.

But a loophole allows the state’s 67 county sheriffs to make their own decisions about using chemical agents to subdue inmates with mental illness. The suit aims to change that.

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