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Posts Tagged ‘ death-in-custody ’

“Texas Disguising Jail Deaths” story in Prison Legal News

Dec 21st, 2020

by Diana Claitor, TX Jail Project communications director.

In 2012, a 53-year-old Black woman named Edwinta Deckard was arrested on a misdemeanor theft charge and held in the Nacogdoches County Jail where she died after three days. Her death was an ordeal of dehydration and trauma, as repeated bouts of diarrhea were ignored by jail staff, and her condition spiraled downward. Cellmates begged jailers to get her medical help, and toward the end they witnessed jailers manhandle her as she lay unconscious.

The awful details of her rough treatment came out when two of the jailers were indicted for criminally negligent homicide, and a $30 million wrongful death lawsuit was filed. However, charges against the jailers were mysteriously dropped when Visiting Judge Guy Griffin signed an order to quash the indictments against the two jailers, and a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit.

Since this was a death in custody, or DIC, Deckard’s death was required by law to be reported to the state, and as such, the details and summary would be officially recorded.

However, that didn’t happen. There’s no record of her death in the custodial death database at the office of the Texas Attorney General (AG). Thus, neither the jail, the county sheriff, nor Nacogdoches County was held accountable. Not reporting a death in custody is a violation of a statute and could have resulted in the sheriff being charged with a class C misdemeanor, but by the time I discovered that Deckard’s death had never been reported, the violation was past the two-year statute of limitations.