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Louisiana Sheriff Pays $1.35 Million Settlement in Death of Diabetic Prisoner

On January 6, 2002, Orleans Parish criminal sheriff Charles Foti agreed to pay $1.35 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of a diabetic female prisoner who died at the parish prison in April 1999.

JoAnn Johnson, who was diabetic, was arrested in April 4, 1999 on several drug charges and booked into the Orleans Parish prison. Court records show that when she was arrested, she was refused permission to go back into her house and get her insulin.

When she was booked into the jail, a doctor told the sheriff how to treat Johnson, and she received her insulin on April 4 and 5. But not April 6.

No information was available as to why Johnson did not receive her insulin on April 6. Court documents only reveal that she had a diabetic attack on that date and was rushed by ambulance to the Medical Center of Louisiana, where she later died.

Johnson's family then filed suit, claiming the sheriff was negligent in her death. The suit was settled in January 2002, but without the consent of many in Johnson's family. "Nobody even told me it was settled," said Victoria Francis, Johnson's mother. "I would have preferred' to fight in court."

The latest lawsuit was just one of three recent federal suits filed against Foti alleging negligence in the administration of insulin. The other two cases, in which two former prisoners alleged they suffered diabetic attacks while at the parish prison, settled for $28,000 and $25,000. Both of the victims in those two cases survived.

In addition to the lawsuit, other organizations, -including the FBI and the ACLU are conducting their own investigations in to medical mistreatment at the jail. And community activists last year fell just 25,000 signatures short of the number needed to place a petition on the ballot to have Foti removed from office.

Source: The Advocate (Baton Rouge)

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