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Inconsistencies surface in feds’ accounts of detainee’s death
A federal detainee who died in Georgia last year of a treatable heart infection had suffered chest pains for the previous three days, contradicting officials’ prior account of the man’s death, an advocacy group said Thursday.
Robert Martinez Medina, 39, died in March 2009 in a Columbus hospital of myocarditis, a condition normally caused by a treatable viral infection. At the time, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said he had not previously complained of chest pain or other ailments.
Newly obtained records show Martinez Medina suffered from chest pain and ran a fever for three days prior to his death, said Georgia Detention Watch, a coalition pushing for reforms in federal detention practices for immigrants. Protestors held a silent vigil Thursday outside ICE offices in Atlanta to mark the one-year anniversary of the detainee’s death.
From the organization’s news release:
Records show many inconsistencies in the accounts by ICE’s representative, the hospital records, and a report by the Division of Immigration Health Services about when Mr. Martinez started complaining of chest pain and other ailments. The most perplexing disconnect in these accounts is the acknowledgment by Assistant Field Office Director for ICE Detention and Removal Operations, Michael Webster, to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation last year that Mr. Medina had experienced chest pain for three days prior to his death, even though Webster reported that Medina “did not voice the complaint.” Newly-obtained records point to a report by the Division of Immigration Health Services stating that Mr. Martinez Medina ran a fever for three days before March 10, 2009. This is in contrast to the official ICE narrative obtained through the ACLU Freedom of Information Act request which states that Mr. Martinez Medina did not complain of chest pain or other ailments prior to March 10, 2009.
Martinez Medina was being held in the Stewart Detention Center, one of three in Georgia built to house several thousand immigrants awaiting deportation proceedings. Last April, Georgia Detention Watch said it has documented numerous instances of poor hygiene and health care at the Lumpkin, Ga., facility, located about 140 miles south of Atlanta.
Nationally, more than 100 other detainees have died in ICE custody. Critics say they believe inconsistent standards for medical care is a primary cause for many of the deaths.
Georgia Detention Watch has asked ICE dump Corrections Corporation of America, which runs two of Georgia’s three detention centers, for falling short of ICE’s standards for medical care.
The advocacy group also complained of a lack of transparency in a federal investigation of Martinez Medina’s death:
The investigation into Mr. Medina’s death was apparently referred to ICE’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties; however, the results of that investigation are unclear. An on-site review of Medina’s death by ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility was apparently scheduled for April 6, 2009; yet there is no indication that this review actually took place.