PHOENIX - The case of a diabetic Valley woman who died in a Maricopa County jail is headed back to trial after the County Board of Supervisors had a tied vote over the $3.25 million settlement.
The trial over Deborah Braillard's 2005 death had been going on for three weeks when it ended abruptly earlier this month. Defense attorneys, just days before a jury would have been asked to decide the case, agreed to the seven-figure settlement and it was sent to the Board of Supervisors.
The Wednesday vote ended in a tie, with one supervisor recusing himself. The decision sends the high-profile case back to trial and now the jury will decide how much money, if any, the Braillard family will get.
A judge had already ruled that Braillard's family could seek both compensatory and punitive damages, due to facts that suggested a deliberate indifference on the part of detention officers and jail officials.
A jury award could end up being much lower, or even several times higher, than the initial settlement amount of $3.25 million.
Jennifer Braillard filed the lawsuit after her mother Deborah was left to die in a Maricopa County jail.
The lawsuit accuses Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, jail officials and detention officers of causing Deborah's death with deprived indifference to her medical condition.
Jennifer thought her struggle for justice was over earlier this month when midway through a civil trial, Maricopa County officials agreed to a settlement in the amount of $3.25 million.
It was supposed to be a done deal—the trial was halted and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors met in executive session voting to approve the settlement.
But for the settlement to be official, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors had to approve it at a public hearing.
A few weeks ago the matter was placed on the board's agenda but a protest by anti-Arpaio activists forced the board to adjourn the meeting before a vote on the Braillard settlement was taken.
Wednesday, the board met and the seven-figure settlement came up for a vote again.
In a surprising development, two board members voted against the settlement while another abstained.
The final vote was two in favor and two against—a tie.
That means the settlement is not approved and the case may have to go back to court for a resumption of the trial.
ABC15 Investigators were the only people present in court during the first three weeks of the trial.
We heard dramatic testimony from detention officers who admitted they knew Deborah Braillard was suffering from life-threatening symptoms but they did nothing to make sure she received medical attention.
We also reported on testimony that exposed how key evidence in the case was altered or destroyed by MCSO.
Attorney Joel Robbins says it didn't surprise him.
"That's the old track record for the sheriff. When you don't like the evidence, you either deal with it or eliminate it. I've seen it in a number of cases."
The judge in the case said the jury would be instructed to consider that if evidence was destroyed by MCSO, it could have been done intentionally to mask responsibility for Deborah Braillard's death.
In a written statement from Arpaio's campaign manager, the sheriff said he was glad the case was going back to trial.
"The Sheriff's Office has been very successful at repeatedly winning at trial. Arpaio has long believed that settling lawsuits for massive amounts of money is not in the interest of justice or the taxpayer. He is pleased with today's decision and looks forward to a positive outcome for the taxpayers in the Braillard trial."