Carter, Michael 1.jpg

Michael Carter is shown with his son in this photo provided by the attorney representing his family in a federal lawsuit. 

We can safely say that whatever is actually the truth in the case of the 2015 death of Michael A. Carter, none of the accused have acquitted themselves well.

Carter was booked into the Macon County Jail while awaiting federal court proceedings on drug and weapons charges. Within days, he died. A $50 million wrongful death suit was filed against a number of parties, including Macon County, the Macon County Sheriff's Department and Decatur Memorial Hospital. The lawsuit contends that Carter died because medical staff working at the jail refused to give him his prescription medicine for his diabetes.

The case continued last week when Decatur Memorial Hospital was in federal court. A judge imposed legal sanctions on DMH for taking more than a year to hand over crucial information in the case. As the case has unfolded and more details have been revealed, there's been a tragic absence of accountability.

Carter died in custody.

Carter and family members pleaded for specific treatment. They were ignored.

Personnel records show licensed practical nurse Jo Bates was dismissed 2½ years after Carter's death, and part of the explanation was jail staff members were upset by derogatory comments made by Bates after Carter's death.

DMH stalled on supplying evidence legally required, which was the subject of last week's hearing. The hospital has been fighting against surrendering the documents for 16 months.

The hospital was sanctioned in federal court, an action even U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan E. Hawley said was rare. The judge said DMH's argument “verged on the frivolous,” and his sanctions included requiring the hospital to pay for everything related to new depositions for Bates and everyone connected with her.

The pieces revealed merely in the personnel record details available are a sign of dysfunction and a cause for alarm. Prisoners are not supposed to die in custody, particularly when the prisoner and advocates are pleading for a specific prescription medication.

The case will continue, and defense lawyers are likely to fight to put a final decision off as long as possible. In the meantime, we're left to hope that the problems shown in the Carter case have been addressed, and trust that those solutions are the proper ones.

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