Friday, September 30, 2005

Federal Zealots Cause Death of Disabled Man

The mother of a quadriplegic man who died in 2004 while in the custody of the Washington, D.C., Department of Corrections filed suit this month against jailers and a local hospital for failing to provide adequate medical care, in violation of federal laws -- including the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

27-year-old Jonathan Magbie was paralyzed from the neck down due to a car wreck when he was 4 years old. Magbie died four days into a 10-day sentence for simple possession of a single cannabis cigarette. It was his only criminal offense. Although it was within D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Retchin's discretion to sentence Magbie to probation only, she imposed a 10-day sentence because she feared he might continue to use marijuana to treat his painful symptoms.

Retchin's 10-day punishment turned into a death sentence for Magbie, who required a motorized chin-operated wheelchair, tracheotomy tube, pulmonary pacemaker, and a ventilator to breathe at night. Additionally, Magbie was at a high risk for contracting pneumonia and had a history of other medical problems with which his jailers would have to contend.

During the four days he was in jail, Magbie's health quickly deteriorated, and he was transferred multiple times between the D.C. Central Detention Facility and the Greater Southeast Community Hospital. He was having a hard time getting oxygen, he contracted pneumonia, and was barely able to eat, according to the lawsuit filed by his mother. Magbie had difficulty speaking above a whisper, and was forced to move his wheelchair around to get the attention of his incarcerators. The movement irritated the guards, who locked him inside an infirmary cell, without access to any kind of intercom or alert button. The guards didn't check on him until the next morning, according to the lawsuit. Magbie's mother, Mary Scott, is seeking over $100 million in damages.

$100 million may sound enormous, but the money won't bring her son back. Compared to being sentenced to drown in their own mucous, the judge, jailers, and hospital are getting off easy.

On a ironic note, President Reagan met with a young Jonathan Magbie in 1982, at a time when the drug war was intensifying. They even shared a Kodak moment...


Blogger datsun said...

This is one f*ked-up story man.
Typical of the world we live in.
Justice and freedom exist only for the rich.

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Justice and Freedom don't really exist for the rich, either.

7:36 PM  
Blogger Christopher Largen said...

You are correct, of course. But I bet they can generally afford more justice and freedom than poor people can. Aggregate justice stats show a direct correlation between wealth and verdicts/sentencing. Economic status is even a more important determining factor than race.

10:15 PM  
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