DC jail stay ends in death for quadriplegic

By psyvision2000 · Sep 27, 2005 · ·
  1. psyvision2000
    Care Provided By Hospital, Corrections Dept. In Question
    October 1, 2004

    Jonathan Magbie, a 27-year-old Mitchellville man, was sent to jail in the District last week for 10 days for marijuana possession.

    He never made it home.

    Paralyzed as a child and unable to even breathe on his own, Magbie died last Friday after being shuttled between the D.C. jail complex and Greater Southeast Community Hospital.

    At the center of the many questions surrounding his death is whether D.C. Superior Court and the D.C. Department of Corrections did enough to ensure adequate care for the quadriplegic inmate.

    An investigation is underway, but that is little solace to his family, which marched on the courthouse this week with signs accusing the judge of killing Magbie.

    "I'm not saying that he shouldn't have been punished, because he did smoke the marijuana," his mother, Mary Scott, said yesterday, a day after burying her son. "I just don't think it should have cost him his life."

    By the standards of D.C. Superior Court, the 10-day sentence rendered by Judge Judith E. Retchin was unusually punitive for a first-time offender such as Magbie. Along with his defense attorney, Boniface Cobbina, a pre-sentence report had recommended probation, and the U.S. attorney's office had not objected.

    But Retchin rejected probation alone. A former federal prosecutor who became a Superior Court judge in 1992, Retchin is known to dispense stiff sentences.

    Police, she pointed out, found a gun and cocaine in the vehicle in which Magbie was stopped in April 2003. And, despite pleading guilty to the marijuana charge, Magbie told pre-sentence investigators that he would continue using the drug, which he said made him feel better.

    "Mr. Magbie, I'm not giving you straight probation," the judge said, according to a transcript of the Sept. 20 proceedings. "Although you did not plead guilty to having this gun, it is just unacceptable to be riding around in a car with a loaded gun in this city."

    Details about Magbie's death were first reported by WJLA-TV ( Channel 7 ). Magbie was struck by a drunk driver when he was 4 years old; he was paralyzed from the neck down, and his growth was stunted. Barely five feet tall and 120 pounds, he moved around on a motorized wheelchair that he operated with his chin.

    For most everything else, from scratching an itch on his head to flushing his lungs of accumulated fluid, he had to rely on others. Along with his family, he had nursing care 20 hours a day.

    "Jonathan was totally dependent," his mother said. "He couldn't do anything for himself."

    Asked how her son was able to inhale marijuana, Scott said only that "he learned to do a lot of things."

    Ahead of Magbie's sentencing, a staff member in Retchin's chambers contacted the office of Chief Judge Rufus G. King III to find out whether the D.C. Corrections Department would be able to house a paralyzed person in a wheelchair. The answer from the chief judge's office, which is the liaison with Corrections, was yes.

    Leah Gurowitz, a court spokeswoman, said yesterday that the full extent of Magbie's paralysis was inadvertently not relayed to the chief judge's office.

    In a statement yesterday, Retchin said she was led to believe "that Mr. Magbie's medical needs could be met; this was such an unintended tragedy. I would like to convey my deepest sympathy to Mr. Magbie's family."

    Even the Correctional Treatment Facility, a jail annex that houses many inmates with medical or security needs, would not have been able to readily care for a prisoner such as Magbie, Philip Fornaci, executive director of the D.C. Prisoners' Legal Services Project, said yesterday.

    "I certainly would not say they killed him or any conclusion like that," Fornaci said. "But it certainly seems likely that he wouldn't have died if he hadn't gone to jail."

    The initial medical evaluation of Magbie after his arrival at the D.C. jail on Sept. 20 found him in need of "acute medical attention," according to the Corrections Department. Within hours, Magbie was moved to Greater Southeast Community Hospital.

    The nature of the medical problem was not specified in a chronology issued by the Corrections Department, which declined to make officials available to comment on the specifics of the case. The timeline shows that Magbie arrived at the jail at 2 p.m. and that he was taken to the hospital at 9:40 p.m. What happened in between is not explained.

    The next day, Magbie was discharged and placed in the Correctional Treatment Facility, the jail annex that is operated by Corrections Corporation of America under a contract with the city. But almost from the moment Magbie arrived there, a senior doctor was concerned that Magbie might not receive the care he needed, according to his mother and a court official.

    The court official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the doctor believed that Magbie belonged at the hospital and pressed Greater Southeast, which handles inmate hospitalizations, to take him back. But the hospital rebuffed the request, the official said.

    Hoping to change the hospital's mind, the physician asked Retchin to issue a court order, the official said. But the judge declined, saying she lacked the authority to issue any such order.

    The hospital said in a statement that it could not comment because of federal privacy regulations. It said that it provides "top-quality" care.

    Apparently resigned to having him stay on at the jail annex, the medical staff decided after a couple of days of back-and-forth with Magbie's mother and attorney to allow Magbie's mother to bring his ventilator.

    Told to bring the device down Friday morning, she did, showing up about 10 a.m. A half-hour earlier, she would later learn, her son had been taken by ambulance back to Greater Southeast.

    That night, she received a call from a warden telling her that her son was dead.


    Share This Article


  1. chillinwill
    Re: d.c jail stay ends in death for quadriple

    City Settles in Death Of Paralyzed Inmate

    The mother of a quadriplegic inmate who died in 2004 after suffering breathing problems at the D.C. jail has reached financial settlements with the District government and his care providers, her attorneys disclosed yesterday.

    The settlements were reached in the controversial death of Jonathan Magbie, a 27-year-old Maryland man who was paralyzed from the neck down and used a mouth-operated wheelchair.

    Magbie died four days into a 10-day jail sentence for possessing marijuana, which he said he used to ease the discomfort caused by his disability. [IMGR="white"]http://www.drugs-forum.co.uk/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=6547&stc=1&d=1228502388[/IMGR]The jail infirmary, where he was housed for several days, wasn't equipped with the ventilator he needed to breathe at night.

    His death sparked several government investigations, which exposed major lapses in Magbie's care at the D.C. jail and Greater Southeast Hospital.

    Attorneys for his mother, Mary R. Scott, declined to provide details of the financial settlement, which she reached with the city, private contractors and the insurance company that covered doctors at the hospital. The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Scott, called the settlement "substantial" in a news release.

    As part of the settlement, the District government changed the way officials screen and handle inmates with medical problems and disabilities, Scott's attorneys said.

    "The family's concern was to make certain that, to the extent anyone can prevent it, that this terrible type of event never happens again," said Elizabeth Alexander, an ACLU lawyer who represented Scott. "A series of people dealt with this young man, and every single place where something could go wrong, it did go wrong."

    Scott declined to comment through her attorneys. She filed a federal lawsuit in 2005 that accused the District government, Greater Southeast, three contractors and more than a dozen corrections officers, doctors and nurses of negligence in Magbie's death.

    A spokeswoman from the D.C. government said she could not comment until looking into the matter. Greater Southeast is under new ownership and has been renamed United Medical Center. A spokeswoman for Corrections Corporation of America, which runs a portion of the D.C. jail where Magbie was held, declined to comment. Representatives of two other contractors did not return phone messages seeking comment.

    Magbie's ordeal began Sept. 20, 2004, when D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith E. Retchin sentenced him to jail after he pleaded guilty to possessing marijuana. D.C. police found a gun and marijuana in Magbie's pockets in April 2003 after stopping a vehicle driven by a cousin of his. Magbie admitted buying the marijuana, records show.

    Magbie's mother was furious that the judge did not give her son probation, the typical punishment for first-time offenders. Magbie, paralyzed since being hit by a drunk driver at age 4, had no criminal record. Retchin told a judicial commission that she sentenced Magbie to jail because he said he would continue to smoke marijuana to alleviate his pain. She also told the commission that she was unaware that he needed a ventilator to breathe at night. The commission cleared Retchin of wrongdoing.

    Because of his condition, Magbie was supposed to be housed in the jail's infirmary, according to an investigation by the D.C. inspector general. Magbie was taken to a hospital for "respiratory distress" and returned to the jail infirmary, which didn't have a ventilator, the report said. Jail doctors did not perform a follow-up examination and did not always conduct daily rounds to check on patients, including Magbie, the report said.

    Magbie ate and drank very little during the next few days, the report stated. On Sept. 24, 2004, he was having respiratory problems, and paramedics were called, the report said. They found him to be "unresponsive and very sweaty," and his undergarment was "saturated with urine," the report said.

    Paramedics told investigators that the trip to the hospital was delayed by about 30 minutes because the jail staff would not allow them to leave without the proper paperwork and without a blood sugar test, the report said.

    At the hospital, Magbie was "acutely ill," according to the report. He died that night.

    By Del Quentin Wilber
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, December 3, 2008; Page B02
  2. entheogensmurf
    Re: d.c jail stay ends in death for quadriple

    Holy shiet! A mom who isn't going insane over the dangers of cannabis. I agree in the sense that when we break laws, we must be willing to accept the penalties.

    The issue here, of course, is that there should be no such law. A law that punishes for a victimless crime. The irony being that the crime (which is not victimless) is the punishment itself.

    Oh well.
  3. fnord
    Re: d.c jail stay ends in death for quadriple

    Id like to know more details about the gun,why did a paralysed man have a gun? how couild someone who had no use of his limbs use a gun? and for that matter how did he role his joints?

    Shame on the judge prosecution and the jail system.
  4. sknkv2
    Re: d.c jail stay ends in death for quadriple

    This is a weird "story". How the fuck does a quadriplegic person, who was "unable to even breathe on his own" and had no use of his limbs smoke marijuana? This article is full of glaring contradictions.
  5. doggy_hat
    Re: d.c jail stay ends in death for quadriple

    Am I reading this correctly? A man who is paralyzed so much he can't even breathe on his own was driving a car with a loaded gun and cocaine?
  6. gmeziscool2354
    Re: d.c jail stay ends in death for quadriple

    i don't think the article ever said he was driving. it seems likely he was in a car with other who had the gun and the blow. i've got a friend who is not quadriplegic but has a very difficult time moving on his own, and cannot walk without braces, which hurt his back so he usually uses his wheel chair. he doesn't smoke pot, but he manages to amaze us all every day with the things he can do given his condition.
  7. AntiAimer
    Re: d.c jail stay ends in death for quadriple

    Yeah such a joke, the judge even acts like he could just walk away.

    Heartless bastards.:( Hell's on earth and that guy suffered it's full wrath.
To make a comment simply sign up and become a member!