Egregious Medical Neglect Leads to Another Detainee’s Death; Public Justice Joins Lawsuit Battling ‘Unconscionable System
Public Justice’s reputation for championing immigrant detainees’ rights has brought another in search of justice to Public Justice’s doorstep—the sister of a detainee who died in custody because officials did not respond to her critical medical condition until it was too late.
In February, Public Justice joined a lawsuit charging the administrators and health care providers at two southern Virginia regional jails—Pamunkey Regional Jail in Hanover and Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth—with medical negligence causing Sandra Kenley’s wrongful death and a violation of her constitutional right to adequate medical care.
A citizen of Barbados, Kenley had been a lawful permanent U.S. resident since 1978. In September 2005, Kenley and her one-and-a-half year old granddaughter were en route home from a trip to Barbados. At the Miami International Airport, she applied for admission but U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials detained her because of an old drug possession charge even though she had successfully completed a drug treatment program and her probation in the case was terminated early. Kenley had no other trouble with the law after that, had overcome her drug addiction, had completed a nursing program, and was raising her granddaughter.
ICE officials allowed Kenley to return to her residence in Washington, D.C., but she was told to appear at an administrative proceeding before in November 2005. There, she told an immigration inspector that she was not working due to a disability—a large fibroid tumor that caused her to hemorrhage every day. The tumor was scheduled to be surgically removed the next month, she explained.
Nonetheless, authorities took Kenley into immediate custody, citing her previous drug charges.
Throughout a six-week detention, Kenley repeatedly notified officials about her serious medical problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and her need for surgery. Still, she was denied proper medication to treat her ailments.
In December 2005, Kenley passed out, face down, in her cell at the Hampton Roads facility. Her cell mate called for help for approximately 20 minutes, but officials did not respond until it was too late.
Public Justice Foundation member and Virginia State Coordinator Ben DiMuro of DiMuro & Ginsberg in Alexandria, VA, is lead counsel in the suit, which is pending in U.S. District Court in Norfolk. Co-counsel are Hillary Collyer of DiMuro & Ginsberg; Stephen M. Smith of The Brain Injury Law Center in Hampton, Va.; and Public Justice’s Managing Attorney Adele Kimmel and Goldberg, Waters & Kraus Fellow Amy Radon.
Read the Complaint in Everett v. Cherry.