Monday, September 17, 2012

Former Maricopa County official says evidence in jail death case was destroyed


A jury heard startling testimony from a former insider raising questions about whether evidence was destroyed at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office to cover up the truth about the tragic death of a diabetic Valley mother. Deborah Braillard, 46, died a painful and unnecessary death when she was deprived of insulin and denied medical care during just three days in custody at the Estrella Jail.

Braillard was arrested on a minor drug charge when her car broke down on New Year’s Day back in 2005. Her daughter Jennifer has fought for seven long years to bring a lawsuit against Sheriff Joe Arpaio, MCSO and four detention officers to trial. ABC15 Investigators have obtained exclusive access to evidence in the case and our reports will continue as the the trial proceeds.


 In the most dramatic moments of this case so far, the former director of medical services testified for Braillard's family against his former employer. Dr. Todd Wilcox, a nationally renowned expert on correctional medical care and services, had been on the job in the position of director for less than two months when Deborah Braillard died. Wilcox said jail staff failed to properly identify Deborah Braillard as a diabetic when she was screened at intake and failed to provide appropriate medical care once she became ill. Wilcox also told the jury that dangerous problems with MCSO’s medical screening of detainees, the lack of proper training of jail staff, deliberate indifference and a culture of secrecy were factors in Braillard’s death. Braillard's attorney calls Wilcox a whistleblower who has revealed the inside truth about how Joe Arpaio runs his jails.

Wilcox testified he eventually quit after he became so frustrated with MCSO and the county’s unwillingness to improve training, conditions and access to medical care for inmates and detainees. He described the culture at MCSO as a “secretive environment” and he explained, "If you complain, you’re punished." Asked what became of documents that are evidence in the case during an internal investigation of Deborah Braillard’s death, Wilcox explained, “Many mysterious things happen on the Sheriff’s computer network.” Dr. Wilcox said, “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.” Wilcox said the medical screening document that should have been created when Braillard was booked into the jail is missing.

But MCSO has produced a document dated three days after Deborah Braillard was actually screened and hours after she had already been rushed to the hospital in an irreversible diabetic coma. Wilcox acknowledged the form was apparently completed in just 59 seconds—an impossible feat given the number of questions that should have been asked of the detainee and answered. The form indicates Braillard told a jail staffer she was not diabetic but her family's lawyers say it's a fake. ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing’s coverage of the death of Deborah Braillard and the trial of MCSO will continue in an effort to raise important questions about a woman that did not have to die.

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