Readers, please add Maricopa County, Arizona to your mental list of places not to get arrested in. Yes, white people, even you.
Deborah Braillard, age 46, was arrested and booked on a minor drug possession charge in January of 2005. Despite being a diabetic, Braillard was not given insulin or any other medication or medical care for four full days, until she was eventually brought to the hospital in a diabetic coma. She died 18 days later of complications from diabetes, and her family’s civil suit against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is now proceeding at trial.
According to the pretrial deposition testimony of the guards and inmates who witnessed the incident, Braillard was constantly moaning and crying out in pain, asking for help, repeatedly vomiting, defecating on herself and having seizures.
“She would shake. Her body would stiffen up,” said Tamela Harper, an inmate in the jail with Braillard. “They never did anything to help her.”
Inmates testified that they begged officers to do something, but apparently prison guards in Maricopa County consider seizures, repeated vomiting, and pooping oneself simply part of the whole prison experience. Harper testified the prisoners alerted the guards to Braillard’s worsening condition, but the guards responded:
“’There’s nothing we can do about it. You just have to deal with it. This is jail. Get over it.”’
Harper added that officers said Braillard was “kicking drugs” and that she was “getting what she deserved.“
On Thursday, plaintiffs’ counsel called Dr. Todd Wilcox, a nationally renowned expert on correctional medical care and services, to testify against his former employer, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. (He eventually quit his job after he became so frustrated with the Sheriff’s Office’s unwillingness to improve training, conditions and access to medical care for inmates and detainees.) Wilcox told the jury that the Sheriff’s Office fostered a culture of deliberate indifference and secrecy.
In this instance, Wilcox testified the medical screening document that should have been created when Braillard was booked into the jail was missing. At trial, the Sheriff’s Office produced a document indicating that Braillard had — for some unknown reason — told jail staff during intake that she was not diabetic. However, the document is dated three days after the intake took place and hours after Braillard had already been rushed to the hospital in an irreversible diabetic coma. The family’s lawyers say the document is a fake. Wilcox explained this sort of thing is not unusual on Sheriff Joe’s watch:
“Many mysterious things happen on the Sheriff’s computer network… 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.”