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Louisiana Jail Detainee’s Death Leads to FBI Investigation, Charges

Nimali Henry, 19, died on April 1, 2014 while in the custody of the St. Bernard Parish Prison in Louisiana after jail employees failed to provide her with proper medication and treatment that they knew she needed.

The FBI initiated an investigation a month after Henry’s death due to a “possible failure to provide adequate care to inmates that could rise to the level of a criminal civil rights violation,” and on December 3, 2015 a federal grand jury indicted guards Andre Dominick, Timothy Williams, Debra Becnel and Lisa Vaccarella for civil rights violations and making false statements to the FBI.

A coroner’s report found that Henry had likely died due to a blood clot resulting from a rare blood disorder. Despite her family members’ efforts to inform jail staff that she was very sick, Henry was never evaluated by a doctor or given her medication. Each of the four guards facing charges is accused of lying to FBI investigators regarding their knowledge of and response to Henry’s medical condition. If convicted, they face up to life in prison for the civil rights violations.

A federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of Henry’s infant daughter in January 2015, but the suit was placed on hold in March pending the results of the criminal case. See: Conners v. Pohlmann, U.S.D.C. (E.D. La.), Case No. 2:15-cv-00101-CJB-JCW.

PLN had previously sued the St. Bernard Parish Prison, raising censorship claims. That lawsuit settled in May 2010. [See: PLN, March 2011, p.26].  

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Related legal case

Conners v. Pohlmann