Deborah Braillard jail death case headed back to trial

When Maricopa County Supervisors failed to approve a multimillion dollar settlement in the jail death of Deborah Braillard two weeks ago, nobody knew for sure what would happen next.

Now, the ABC15 Investigators have exclusive details about how the failure by county supervisors to accept a negotiated settlement could end up costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars more than the $3.25 million tentatively agreed upon.

Documents we've obtained indicate the defendants, Maricopa County and Sheriff Joe Arpaio could face sanctions from the judge hearing the case and that could be an expensive penalty for taxpayers.

We've also learned the trial is set to resume after the Thanksgiving holiday.


Deborah Braillard, 46, was arrested on a minor drug charge when her car broke down on News Years day 2005.

The insulin dependent diabetic Valley mother spent three horrific days in Estrella Jail where she was deprived of insulin and denied medical attention .

By the time Deborah Braillard was finally rushed to a hospital it was too late.

She had lapsed into a diabetic coma and she died two weeks later.

An autopsy revealed Braillard had no illicit drugs in her system.

Deborah Braillard's daughter Jennifer fought for seven years to get justice for her mother.

She told ABC15 Investigator David Biscobing that the death of Deborah Braillard was a tragedy that didn't have to happen.

Jennifer Braillard insists she doesn't care about money, but she wants the people responsible for her mother's death to be held accountable and she wants to make sure what happened to her mother does not happen to anybody else.



Jennifer Braillard's lawsuit against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and a handful of MCSO detention officers went to trial on September 10th in the Pinal County Courthouse.

The ABC15 Investigators reported exclusively on evidence the jury would hear even before they heard it.

ABC15 was the only news operation that covered this important trial and our exclusive stories included evidence we uncovered that Maricopa County sheriff's officials considered deaths like Braillard's to be "the cost of doing business."

During three weeks of trial testimony, it became clear that the Braillard case will long be remembered as an example of what one of the county's own consultants called "a culture of cruelty" inside the jails.

Jurors heard details about how Deborah Braillard suffered, vomiting repeatedly, defecating on herself and having multiple seizures.

MCSO detention officers admitted under oath they ignored Deborah Braillard's pleas for help and refused to get a nurse to examine her even though they knew she was suffering from life threatening symptoms that included having trouble breathing.

Sworn testimony also showed detention officers who were on duty while Braillard was in custody had access to computer records indicating she was an insulin dependent diabetic—but they never bothered to check.

The jury also heard shocking testimony from high ranking former county officials about how the MCSO destroyed critical evidence in the case in an effort to obscure what had really happened to Deborah Braillard.


Judge Carter Olson presided over three weeks of dramatic testimony in the case.

But on October 1st, the trial was abruptly halted when the two sides informed Judge Olson they had reached a settlement.  

The ABC15 Investigators obtained an audio tape of the phone conference where Sheriff Arpaio's attorney, Dan Struck told Judge Olson, "Your Honor, the parties about 15 minutes ago have settled this case."

Startled by the news, Judge Olson replied, "Is today April 1st?"

Dan Struck responded, "No, I'm not kidding you. The case has been resolved. It's just the public vote that needs to be done…I've never heard of them changing their minds between executive session and the formal vote, so the case is over."

But the attorney spoke too soon.

The $3.25 million settlement was no sure thing after all.

About two weeks after assuring Judge Olson the case had been settled, and the public vote of Maricopa County Supervisors was a mere formality, the board met in open session.

A protest by anti-Arpaio activists interrupted a public meeting of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on October 17th.

Chairman Max Wilson announced his displeasure with the protesters and decided to adjourn the meeting without taking a vote on the Braillard settlement.

Two weeks later, when the board met again in public on October 31st, there were no protesters present.

But the vote on the Braillard settlement ended in a 2-2 tie and thus the tentative agreement failed to pass.

Chairman Max Wilson and Supervisor Andy Kunasek voted against the settlement.

Now, the ABC15 Investigators have obtained a court order that lets the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors know "of the possibility of sanctions"

that could be imposed by Judge Olson on the defendants for creating an unnecessary delay in the case.

In our exclusive report, we reveal that Judge Carter Olson has ordered jurors, who have been on hold, that they must appear before him.

Each juror will be questioned individually by the court to determine if they have been tainted by news reports or outside influences as they have waited for the settlement to be approved.

We've spoken with legal experts who say Judge Olson could decide to dismiss the jury and hear the rest of the case himself rendering a verdict from the bench.

Braillard's family has already been given permission by the court to ask for punitive damages because of the nature of the evidence against the county.

The judge has set a tentative date of November 26th to resume the trial after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Taxpayers may be on the hook for a lot more than $3.25 million

Stay tuned to ABC15 News and for complete coverage of the Braillard case.

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