ACLU and Local Attorneys File Lawsuit Over Quadriplegic Left To Die At DC Jail

September 20, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The mother of a quadriplegic man who died while serving a 10-day jail sentence filed a lawsuit today against District of Columbia officials and Greater Southeast Community Hospital over the deficient care that led to her son’s death. Mary Scott, mother of Jonathan Magbie, joined the American Civil Liberties Union and local attorneys at a press conference on the courthouse steps this morning to announce the lawsuit.

“”My son died last year because doctors at the Jail and Greater Southeast Hospital completely ignored his medical needs,”” said Scott. “”Today, I am seeking justice for my son and my family. The wrongdoers must be held accountable for Jonathan’s death.””

On September 20, 2004, Jonathan Magbie was incarcerated at the DC Central Detention Facility for possession of a single marijuana cigarette. Magbie, 27, was paralyzed from the neck down because of a childhood injury and required a tracheotomy tube and mechanical equipment to breathe. In the days before his death, Magbie was transferred multiple times between the detention facility, Greater Southeast Community Hospital, and the District’s Correctional Treatment Facility (CTF).

“”Over an agonizing four-day period, the staff at all three locations failed to provide Jonathan Magbie with necessary medical care and the services he needed because of his disabilities,”” according to the lawsuit filed by private attorneys Donald M. Temple and Edward J. Connor and the ACLU.

According to papers filed today, while in custody, Magbie suffered from acute pneumonia that was never treated. He was also severely dehydrated and malnourished but the jail’s infirmary failed to provide him enough nutrition or fluids. Furthermore, the ventilator he needed to assist his breathing at night was unavailable at the detention center or at the District’s treatment facility.

On September 24, when medical staff at CTF were not observing him, Magbie developed an acute respiratory crisis and was transferred to the hospital, where he soon died. His mother seeks money damages for officials’ failure to provide her son with the treatment he needed to stay alive.

“”D.C.’s jail system had a duty to care for Jonathan Magbie’s serious medical needs,”” said Elizabeth Alexander, Director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project and co-counsel in the lawsuit. “”The jail and Greater Southeast Hospital failed in that duty and those failures resulted in an agonizing death.””

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