Inmate Denied Medical Care and Dies, Evidence Destroyed

The daughter of a 46-year-old woman who died while in custody at the county jail is suing the office of the Sheriff, alleging authorities neglected her and deprived her of receiving necessary medications for three days, allowing her to slip into a diabetic coma.

The local news affiliate reported on the circumstances that led to the victim’s death, after she was booked into the county jail for a minor drug possession charge when her car broke down on New Years Day in 2005.

The victim was a diabetic.

The victim’s daughter has fought for seven years to bring the lawsuit against the Sheriff, the county and four detention officers to trial.

Witnesses said the victim was constantly moaning and crying out in pain, asking for help, repeatedly vomiting, defecating on herself and having seizures. Without insulin, the victim slipped into a diabetic coma from which she would never recover.

“She would shake, her body would stiffen up,” said an inmate in the jail who witnessed the incident. “They never did anything to help her.” Inmates said that they begged officers to do something. “They were telling everyone, ‘There’s nothing we can do about it. This is jail, get over it.”  The witness added that officers said that the victim was “kicking drugs” and she was “getting what she deserved.”

Later, the medical representatives would prove the guards wrong.

As the trial began, the local news station said a series of reports will “shed light on what experts call a broken system inside a county jail that has led to needless deaths and tens of millions of taxpayer dollars paid out in lawsuits.”

The victim died a painful and unnecessary death when she was deprived of insulin and denied medical care during her three days in custody at the county jail.

The former Director of Medical Services had been on the job for less than two months when the victim died. He said that jail staff failed to properly identify the victim as a diabetic when she was screened at intake and failed to provide appropriate medical care once she became ill.

The Director of Medical Services also told the jury that dangerous problems with the jail’s medical screening of detainees, lack of proper training of jail staff, deliberate indifference and a culture of secrecy were factors in the victim’s death.

The doctor testified that he eventually quit after he became so frustrated with the county jail and their unwillingness to improve training, conditions and access to medical care for inmates and detainees.

He described the “secrecy” of the environment that “if you complain, you are punished.”

When asked what happened to the documents that are evidence in this case during an internal investigation of the death, the doctor explained, “Many mysterious things happen on the sheriff’s computer network.”

The doctor recalled, “I remember going to lunch one day and coming back with my sandwich to find somebody controlling my mouse remotely and locating folders and documents.”

He said the medical screening document that should have been created when the victim was booked into the jail is missing.

The county jail produced a document dated three days after the victim was actually screened and hours after she had already been rushed to the hospital in an irreversible diabetic coma. The doctor acknowledged that the form was apparently completed in just 59 seconds (an impossible feat given the number of questions that should have been asked and answered of the detainee).

The doctor claims that there are too many inmates for their staff to care for and that there is a backlog of medical requests that leaves inmates without care for weeks and sometimes months. He said that it is so long, you probably will not be seen during your incarceration.

A judge has ruled that the victim’s daughter can seek compensatory and punitive damages. That means a jury could decide to award the victim’s family millions of dollars.

Dating back to 1995, the local news investigation found eight different warnings or reports that detail “unconstitutional” conditions inside the jail. The county has also had its accreditation suspended or put on probation multiple times. These include a Department of Justice investigation, a letter from county doctors and several outside audits that have called the jail “inhumane, cruel and dangerous.”

According to an investigation by local news reporters, the current bill for the Sheriff’s tenure exceeds $25 million.

The doctor said that he was brought in to change the “culture” within the county but was only able to make limited improvements before he quit.   He said that the county is “incredibly vindictive about anybody who criticizes them” and added, “the reason you don’t hear a lot of people objecting to what’s going on is a fear of retribution.”

For more information, contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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