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.
Whether they violated the Eight Amendment, which protects against cruel and unusual punishment, is at the heart at a trial starting Thursday in federal court in Fort Myers, reports The Naples Daily News.
The state of Florida says it is - the 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.