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Quadriplegic Dies in Jail for Smoking Marijuana


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#1
Grim Bongmaster

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Keith Stroup's LTE In Defense Of Jonathan Magbie

October 5, 2004

Letters To the Editor
The Washington Post
1150 15th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20071

Dear Sir or Madam:

In the nearly 35 years that our organization has been fighting to end marijuana prohibition, and to stop the senseless arrest of marijuana smokers, I have never witnessed a more tragic example of the need to repeal these destructive laws than that of Jonathan Magbie, a 27-year-old Mitchellville man who was recently sentenced to 10 days in the DC jail for marijuana possession. Magbie, a quadriplegic since age 4 when he was struck by a drunk driver, operated his motorized wheelchair with his chin. He was otherwise totally dependent on others for his care.

According to the Post report, when asked by the court's pre-sentence investigators about his marijuana smoking, Magbie said he would continue using the drug because it made him feel better. Apparently that honesty was too much for Judge Judith E. Retchin, who proceeded to ignore the presentence report recommending probation, a recommendation to which the US Attorney's Office had not objected, and to impose a 10-day jail sentence on this terribly handicapped individual, apparently to teach him a lesson.

The lesson for all of us , though not the one intended by this apparently uncaring judge, was that even a few days in the DC jail system can be a death sentence for those with serious medical problems. Jonathan Magbie died from unexplained causes, currently under investigation, but it is clear that his death was the result of his being sent to jail by Judge Retchin.

According to the latest government surveys, at least 27 million Americans smoked marijuana last year, and most of them did it for the same reason that Jonathan Magbie did: because it made them feel better. Marijuana is a safe drug, when used responsibly, and unlike alcohol. that results in approximately 50,000 deaths each year in this country, and tobacco, which results in more than 400,00 deaths each year, marijuana has never caused a death in the history of mankind. It is simply not sufficiently toxic. Yet alcohol and tobacco are legal, while marijuana remains classified as a dangerous drug, and more than 600,000 Americans are arrested each year for smoking it.

Surely this tragic incident will cause the DC City Council to consider decriminalizing minor marijuana offenses in the District. Until that can be accomplished, perhaps this tragedy will cause the DC Police to consider issuing tickets to minor marijuana offenders, as Mayor Daly has recently suggested for Chicago, instead of arresting and jailing smokers. A ticket would have saved Magbie's life.

This is truly a sad time for all of us, and especially for the family and friends of Jonathan Magbie. He did not deserve to die for smoking marijuana.

Respectfully,

Keith Stroup
Executive Director
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)

Original Article:
http://www.mapinc.or...a10.html?157932

#2
Thurman Merman

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this is just messed up...i'm a quad too and i feel truly sorry for that. man! this is actually pissing me of. seriously...wtf is wrong with ppl?

#3
sidious

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that is so sad..........all he wanted to do was smoke, and be left in peace, sad part is, i bet the govt just don't care..........he would have been ok hee with the Decriminalisation, they would have just taken his details, and the hash, and left him alone to fight another day...........Peace out.........Sid

#4
SpiralEyes

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I can't imagine what he must have been feeling like when the judge did that to him. It makes me feel like shit :(

#5
critter

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l wonder if that judge is happy now :(

#6
sensimil

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good post grim, thanks..
this is an excellent truthful letter, and the story is beyond words. Magbie was no threat, doing no harm! it is very sad! :(

#7
MrGiggleS

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all i can hope is the judge realizes waht she did and if she does and doesnt care then i hope she burns in hell what a bitch
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#8
IndianaToker

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by Colbert I. King, (Source:Washington Post)
17 Sep 2005

Tuesday marks the first anniversary of 27-year-old Jonathan Magbie's final encounter with the D.C. government. It will be no cause for celebration.

It was on Sept. 20, 2004, that D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Retchin sentenced Magbie, a quadriplegic since an accident at age 4, to 10 days in the D.C. jail. His crime? Possession of marijuana.

Five days after falling into the hands of the D.C. government, Magbie was dead. He died a horrible death. It was preventable. But nobody in the system cared.

Looking down from her bench, Retchin saw a first-time offender. He controlled his wheelchair with a mouth-operated device. He could breathe only with a battery-controlled pulmonary pacemaker. At night he needed the assistance of a respirator. He could have been sentenced to home detention, where he would have had round-the-clock attention. Instead, Retchin, apparently upset when Magbie refused to swear off weed, which helped him get through a miserable existence, sent him to that taxpayer-supported hellhole near the Anacostia River known as the D.C. jail.

What happened to Magbie at the jail and at Greater Southeast Community Hospital, where his life ended five days later, shouldn't happen to a dog. In fact, it doesn't happen to dogs and cats in the custody of decent and caring people. But Magbie had no one in his corner except his mother, Mary Scott, and she could not join him in jail. In the intervening 12 months, the continuum of players responsible for Magbie's last days on Earth has never had it so good.

Retchin's handling of the Magbie case was reviewed by the D.C. Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure: It gave her grace, and she was subsequently rewarded with a renewed assignment to the court's coveted criminal docket so that more Retchin-style justice can be meted out to the criminal-minded.

Odie Washington, director of the Corrections Department, which runs the D.C. jail, retired with full honors and words of praise from the mayor. And Greater Southeast Community Hospital, which treats the District's sick inmates under a lucrative D.C. government contract, continues to collect D.C. checks, courtesy of city taxpayers.

The only person made to pay for the mistreatment of Jonathan Magbie has been Magbie himself. But perhaps not for long.

On the anniversary of his imprisonment, attorneys retained by Magbie's mother will file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the D.C. government and the hospital charging them with medical malpractice and violations of the D.C. Human Rights Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act and the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

Magbie's lawyers are no slouches. Two of them, Donald Temple and Ed Connor, successfully sued the Eddie Bauer clothing store chain in 1997 for falsely imprisoning and defaming three young black men on suspicion of shoplifting. The federal jury required the company to pay $1 million.

Temple and Connor are joined by the American Civil Liberties Union's Eighth Amendment specialists in prisoners' rights, Elizabeth Alexander and Arthur Spitzer. Together they have done the job that the D.C. inspector general's office and the mayor's office told me they would do -- but did not. Magbie's lawyer found out what happened to him during those five fateful days a year ago. And they want to tell that story to a federal judge and jury.

Among the evidence they will present is an affidavit and medical opinion from Jerry S. Walden, a prison medicine expert and former chief medical officer at the U.S. penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind. After a review of records from the D.C. jail and Greater Southeast Community Hospital, interviews with various sources and a look at the pertinent medical literature, Walden concluded that "Jonathan Magbie died a death of neglect."

There were, Walden said, many parts to the failure to take Magbie's health seriously. "Certainly the tracheostomy accident [Magbie's tracheostomy was misaligned, shoved back in, and not tied to maintain a correct position] could have been prevented and happened while being monitored.

"His pneumonia [noted during the initial jail examination] was essentially undiagnosed and untreated. Despite the early X-ray and the sputum production, no one sent a sputum specimen and started treatment. All this was complicated by his nutritional status." ( Magbie weighed 130 pounds at jail intake on Monday, Sept. 20. Five days later, at his autopsy exam, he weighed 90 pounds ).

"He had been in the emergency room on day one [rushed from the jail to Greater Southeast and returned the next day] and had fluid and sugar deficits noted. No one cared that he wasn't eating or measured his fluid intake after."

Although Magbie needed a respirator and made that fact known on his first day at the jail, he was never given one during his five days in custody. "There were no physicians consult nor pulmonary consult performed while in the jail. He was monitored by license practical nurses. No RN [registered nurse] or PA [physician's assistant] or doctor followed him or was even consulted about" drastic changes in his condition.

Disaster struck on Sept. 24, his last day at the jail -- and in this world. The lawsuit will detail what happened that day.

None of this will soften the blows that Magbie received from the D.C. government. None of this will bring him back or end the weeping and sorrow in his family. But Magbie deserves justice. This is an opportunity. We are obliged to try.


Pubdate: Sat, 17 Sep 2005
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Section: Pg A21
Copyright: 2005 The Washington Post Company
Contact:
letters@washpost.com
Website: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/491
Author: Colbert I. King
Link to article: http://www.mapinc.or.../n1487/a13.html

#9
luv2drive420

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These articles need to be put on the front page of every newspaper. When the trial starts they should show it on court tv just like they do all the other ones. Somehow some way there has to be.

#10
sidious

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just the thought of that poor man dying, slowly over 5 days by himself in a jail cell sickens me............WHAT THE FUCK WERE THEY THINKING????............a person in his condition needs almost 24/7 care...........not to be sent to jail, all the judge had to do was look and say, well i know he can't be smoking the weed to get high for the effect and then hit the munchies..............1/he's in a wheelchair 2/he's paralysed 3/ let the guy do whatever he wants in life unless he wants to kill someone, and even then he's incapable...............they should have let the man be.........he had it hard enough with the U.S. justice system fucking him over...............even take the weed out the equation............someone in his medical condition should never have been sent to a normal prison..............EVER.............FOR ANYTHING....................Peace out..............Sid

#11
Fëanor

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Let's lock up the judge for having Midol in her purse. We'll lock her in a cell and ignore her until she loses 40 pounds. Then we'll ask her what she thinks about her decision in retrospect.

#12
Zak

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That is just sad, this story can serve as a geat example. The reason people are jailed is because they are "threats" to society among other reasons, Mr. Magbie was obviously not a threat to society. He should have never even been prosecuted for his offense, what has this world come to?

#13
RuffRat

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i have to say, reading those brought tears to my eyes, that has deeply saddend me.

#14
IndianaToker

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For Immediate Release
Source: ACLU

Washington, D.C. -- The mother of a quadriplegic man who died while serving a 10-day jail sentence filed a lawsuit today against District of Columbia officials and Greater Southeast Community Hospital over the deficient care that led to her son’s death.
Mary Scott, mother of Jonathan Magbie, joined the American Civil Liberties Union and local attorneys at a press conference on the courthouse steps this morning to announce the lawsuit.

“My son died last year because doctors at the Jail and Greater Southeast Hospital completely ignored his medical needs,” said Scott. “Today, I am seeking justice for my son and my family. The wrongdoers must be held accountable for Jonathan’s death.”

On September 20, 2004, Jonathan Magbie was incarcerated at the DC Central Detention Facility for possession of a single marijuana cigarette. Magbie, 27, was paralyzed from the neck down because of a childhood injury and required a tracheotomy tube and mechanical equipment to breathe. In the days before his death, Magbie was transferred multiple times between the detention facility, Greater Southeast Community Hospital, and the District’s Correctional Treatment Facility (CTF).

“Over an agonizing four-day period, the staff at all three locations failed to provide Jonathan Magbie with necessary medical care and the services he needed because of his disabilities,” according to the lawsuit filed by private attorneys Donald M. Temple and Edward J. Connor and the ACLU.

According to papers filed today, while in custody, Magbie suffered from acute pneumonia that was never treated. He was also severely dehydrated and malnourished but the jail’s infirmary failed to provide him enough nutrition or fluids. Furthermore, the ventilator he needed to assist his breathing at night was unavailable at the detention center or at the District’s treatment facility.

On September 24, when medical staff at CTF were not observing him, Magbie developed an acute respiratory crisis and was transferred to the hospital, where he soon died. His mother seeks money damages for officials’ failure to provide her son with the treatment he needed to stay alive.

“D.C.’s jail system had a duty to care for Jonathan Magbie’s serious medical needs,” said Elizabeth Alexander, Director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project and co-counsel in the lawsuit. “The jail and Greater Southeast Hospital failed in that duty and those failures resulted in an agonizing death.”

Complete Title: ACLU and Local Attorneys File Lawsuit Over Quadriplegic Left To Die At DC Jail

Source: ACLU (NY)
Published: September 20, 2005
Copyright: 2005 ACLU
Contact: media@aclu.org
Website: http://www.aclu.org/

Link to article: http://www.cannabisn...read21129.shtml

#15
RuffRat

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reading these are bringing a tear to my eye, he died beacuse he used cannabis to help himself.

#16
plumface_2002

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omg this is fucking retarded, i honestly cannot belive what people have come down to these days. Just to have their 15 minutes of fame, to make everyone look and say Hey!, im busting all the drug users! They consider it worth that to end innocent life. Life that just because we belive in values diffrent from those in power, they consider not worthwhile.

#17
calitexmex

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Sentencing a quadrapalegic to 10 days in jail for using his medecine and sending him to jail without his meds and killing him? How can you send a helpless man to jail take away his meds and causing his death. I think the judge should be sentenced to life for taking another mans life. What do you think?

#18
TokinBlue

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that story gave me goosebumps, even brought a teat to the eye. Its fuckin ridiculous how cold hearted and stupid ppl have become. nothin on this planet should have to deal with what he did....that judge should burn in hell

#19
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thats an outrage, you have got to be one seriously stupid fucked up immoral human being to sentance that guy to jail. reading that made me so angry, how can someone be so stupid? im genuinely asking, how can someone be so fucking ignorant??? it really defies belief, where the hell is some peoples common sense? i would like to take her 'rule book', a hard back copy, and beat her in the head with it till she stops moving, then one piece of cockroach scum will be ridden from the earth

#20
calitexmex

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I agrre wholeheartedely with you guys on this one Sid, you cant send a parapalegic in there you have a tough time sending young white males to prison, and they send a parapelegic, that had the, right conditions to use marijuana, you arrest him in federal prison for carrying most probaly his most important medecine that kept him alive. " How can the life of such a man be in the palm of some fools hands" . Im sorry but this is just a sad tragedy for any body that knows someone thats quadrapalegic and could have been there last days of life. I mean shouldnt they have known he was going to die, he should have been with his family or in the hospital instead of in prison with killers and thugs.




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