PHOENIX - It was a contentious day of heated testimony in the civil trial over the jail death of a diabetic Valley mother with two important witnesses, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his former Chief Deputy Dave Hendershott taking the stand.
Deborah Braillard, 46, died after being denied insulin and medical care during three days at a Maricopa County jail.
Time after time, lawyers for both sides had to huddle with the judge because of dozens of objections raised by Arpaio’s lawyers in response to questions asked by Braillard’s daughter’s attorney, Michael Manning.
The Braillard case could end up costing Maricopa County taxpayers millions.
Deborah Braillard was arrested on minor drug charges on New Year’s Day 2005 when her car broke down.
She suffered severe stomach pains, lost control of her bodily functions and went into seizures but never saw a nurse during her three days in custody at the Estrella Jail.
Testimony in the case has shown that Maricopa County detention officers knew she was sick and having trouble breathing, but never summoned medical assistance until it was too late despite the fact that jail computers had the information that Braillard was an insulin dependent diabetic.
Inmates tried to get Braillard help before she eventually became so sick she fell into a diabetic coma and was finally rushed to a hospital where she was shackled to a bed for more than two weeks.
Doctors told her family she would never recover and she was eventually taken off life support and died.
Braillard’s daughter fought through the legal system for seven years to bring her lawsuit against Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, Maricopa County and five Maricopa County detention officers to trial.
A judge has already ruled in the case that Braillard’s family will be allowed to seek both compensatory and punitive damages.
First up on the stand was former Deputy Chief Bill Williams who claimed he could not remember the answers to most of the questions posed to him by Braillard’s attorney.
When Sheriff Arpaio took the stand he claimed to know very little about what happened to Deborah Braillard and he admitted that after she died, he didn’t order an investigation or ask any questions about her death.
“All I know is that someone died…and was taken to the hospital," Arpaio testified.
Arpaio acknowledged that there was no formal internal investigation launched into why detention officers never sought medical assistance for Braillard.
Arpaio, talking about his jails that he once described as “bad” told the jury, “It’s a tough environment and we do the best we can."
Arpaio also confessed to the jury that he had not actually read a book that he co-authored in which he suggested that he wanted his jails to punish inmates.
Later in the day, one of Arpaio’s old pals took the stand and took a decidedly different demeanor.
Former Maricopa County Chief Deputy Dave Hendershott told the jury that he hoped detention officers would summon medical assistance for anybody as sick as Braillard was while in custody.
Hendershott said, "You wouldn’t just let it alone—you’d make sure assistance was given."
He admitted the jail went through periods of being dangerously understaffed.
And he said, “I would like to see detention officers be aware of inmates’ welfare."
When asked if he thought there should have been an internal investigation into the death of Deborah Braillard, Hendershott said, “It would just be good business to make sure we knew what happened."
The ABC15 Investigators will continue to bring you exclusive coverage of this important case all the way through the day the jury reaches a verdict.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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