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Georgia Jail Pays $937,500 in Wrongful Death Settlement

Rodney Earl Graham, 30, died while in the custody of Georgia’s Douglas County jail on November 4, 2009. Arrested on a probation violation for possession of marijuana, he became seriously ill after about a week at the lock-up. Graham requested medical care but instead was placed in a detox cell despite pleas from his family that he needed treatment for a kidney condition. The surveillance camera inside the cell captured his gradual deterioration over a three-day period and eventual, painful death from renal failure.

“I think he died a death that an animal would not be permitted to die in this country,” stated Assistant District Attorney Bonnie Smith.

Represented by Nicholas C. Moraitakis of Atlanta, Graham’s estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of his wife, Cathy, and 2-year-old daughter. The suit alleged that Graham had suffered from a treatable disorder that required medication, and the denial of that medication and medical care by jail staff caused his death.

Without admitting liability, county officials agreed to settle with Graham’s family in February 2011 for $937,500. In July 2013, a separate, confidential settlement was reached with Dr. Jimmy Graham (no relation to Rodney Graham), who reportedly oversaw medical care at the jail.

“Nothing is going to bring Rodney back, but in terms that the legal system permits, this settlement does as much as can be done,” Moraitakis said.

Two jail employees, nurse Stephanie Evans, 41, and EMT Kelli Marie Brown, 45, were indicted on involuntary manslaughter charges in connection with Graham’s death. In November 2014, a jury found Brown not guilty of failing to provide adequate care; she is no longer employed in the medical field and now works as a waitress, according to news reports. Evans was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to six months in a probation center and ten years on probation. She cannot work as a nurse during her probation term.

Following Graham’s death, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office announced that medical and mental health care for prisoners was being contracted to a private provider, CorrectHealth. That didn’t solve problems at the jail, however. A lawsuit filed against CorrectHealth in October 2014 alleges that the company’s staff gave medication to prisoner Joe Dent, 52, that he was allergic to, contributing to his death in 2012.



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