A Mississippi jury deadlocked in its deliberations against a former nurse accused of killing a patient at the George County (MS) Regional Correctional Facility. The jury was deadlocked 11 to 1. After hours of additional deliberations, the court declared a mistrial.
The story of nurse Carmon Brannan has been widely covered in the press. In 2017 she pleaded no contest to manslaughter charges but then prior to sentencing abruptly tried to change her mind and claim she was pressured by her lawyer into pleading.
Ultimately, a judge allowed to change her plea and set the matter for trial. In January of 2018, the trial got underway but resulted in a mistrial on January 22nd.
Although the case against the nurse gets the headlines, the real story is that of William Joel Dixon, the young man who died while under nurse Brannon’s care.
There are tens of thousands of inmates or detainees with critical healthcare needs being held in jails and prisons across the nation. In many of those facilities, the medical care offered is abysmal.
Prisoners are America’s forgotten. Sure, family members care but society as a whole soon forgets when someone is locked up. Unfortunately, the United States locks up more people per capita than any other nation except perhaps North Korea.
When incarcerated, prisoners have no choice as to their medical care. They can’t switch doctors or get a second opinion. In many facilities, they are lucky if you see a doctor. (We frequently see cases where jails are trying to do things “on the cheap” by having sick calls performed by vocational nurses instead of doctors, nurse practitioners or physician assistants.)
Unfortunately, the story of William Dixon is just another in a series of these tragedies.
The Tragic Jail Death of William Dixon
William Dixon was a young man at the time of his death. Like all of us, he made some mistakes. His were serious but not life ending; Dixon was in jail for Driving Under the Influence, Child Endangerment, simple possession and having an expired license plate. Charges that might keep him jail for a few months but should never become a death sentence.
Within days of being arrested, Dixon was found in his cell dead. The autopsy revealed he died from a diabetic reaction.
Unlike a fatal cardiac arrest or aneurysm that can strike without notice, the jail and medical staff knew that Dixon was diabetic and needed insulin. They watched for days as he slowly and painfully died, and never once did they offer him insulin or call a doctor.
Did the jail and medical staff know that Dixon was diabetic? Absolutely.
Evidence at the trial revealed that a police officers retrieved Dixon’s insulin from his car and handed it over to jail staff. If that isn’t enough, Dixon’s mother called the jail to let them know he was a diabetic and needed insulin. She says she spoke directly with nurse Brannan.
His mother would testify that she subsequently brought more insulin to the jail and gave to staff there.
While William Dixon obviously couldn’t testify, we also know that the jail’s booking sheet notes he was diabetic.
Did Dixon receive any of that insulin? No. For seven days Dixon’s condition worsened in front of everyone’s eyes, yet no one gave him insulin or transported him to the hospital. On the eighth day he was found dead.
During his seven day stay, jail records show that Dixon’s blood sugar levels were only tested once. They should have been tested twice a day and even more if he was showing signs of weakness. He was so weak that midway through his stay he was found unconscious in the shower.
Jail records indicate that for the next three days he never ate any of his food. On the day before he died he was incoherent. Conscious and in agony but at that point so weak that he could not speak with jailers.
Not once during this time did nurse Brannan or any other medical staff provide any insulin to Dixon. Although she was the one criminally prosecuted, the entire jail bears responsibility. Guards, supervisors, the county, the sheriff and yes… nurse Brannan. (Nurse Brannan was listed at the jail’s healthcare director.)
We don’t exactly know how many times Dixon asked for medical treatment or insulin while he was still able to speak but witnesses say that he did complain. Even some of the jail staff were concerned yet no one did anything.
Day after day Dixon sat in his cell, not eating and getting worse.
And what did the jail nurse have to say? She thought that Dixon was “faking it” and was really just going through drug withdrawals. (Even if he was going through withdrawals, the medical staff and jail has a responsibility to insure he received proper care. Drug withdrawals can themselves be fatal.)
Justice for William Dixon
At this writing it is unknown whether the state will retry Carmon Brannan. Unlike a civil jury, criminal cases require a unanimous verdict. An 11 – 1 jury vote means the criminal jury was considered “deadlocked.” That doesn’t prevent a second trial, however.
The bigger picture is the civil case currently being played out in a Gulfport, Mississippi federal courthouse. William Dixon’s family has sued the sheriff’s department as well as nurse Brannan and others. Putting Brannan behind bars might bring some closure but it doesn’t mean justice will have been served. (She faces 20 years if retried and convicted of manslaughter.)
Victims of shoddy jail medical care are entitled to monetary damages. Since Willian died as the result of not getting insulin, it is family who will be entitled to damages.
After the criminal trial, Dixon’s estate filed a civil suit seeking monetary damages. Often these civil suits are the only way to get justice and to change the system.
For example, the suit notes that national and Mississippi standards say that a regional correctional facility housing hundreds of inmates should have a physician as medical director, not a registered nurse. Worse, it appears that Brannan as medical director was operating without any physician supervision.
Even nurse practitioners and physician assistants need to operate under supervision. Apparently, that is not the case in George County, Mississippi, however.
George County answered the complaint in November of 2017. They claim the acts against them fail “to rise to the level of a constitutional or statutory deprivation under the laws of the United States, the Constitution of the United States, the laws of Mississippi, or the Constitution of Mississippi.” In other words, they did nothing wrong.
Nurse Brannan has also denied all responsibility.
So who is to blame? A federal jury is scheduled to decide that question on March 4, 2019.
Simply because one is arrested doesn’t mean they lose all their rights. Our Constitution protects everyone in America from cruel and unusual punishment. Our Supreme Court says that our rights include adequate medical care while in prison. If you or a loved one died or suffered a permanent disabling injury, call us.
We will defend your rights anywhere in the nation.
Did a loved one die while in custody because of no medical care or grossly deficient medical care? At Jail Death and Injury Law we can help. We are a national network of experienced jail death and prison injury lawyers. Call US 866.836.4684 or Connect Online
We also invite you to visit our Death in Custody and Jail Medical Neglect information pages.