MCSO on trial: Why a diabetic Valley mother didn't have to die

By the time Deborah Braillard got to the hospital, it was already too late.

"She was on life support and just lying there," said Braillard's daughter Jennifer. "She wasn't responsive."

Jennifer said she will never get over the pain of pulling the plug. Her mother had just suffered horrifically for three days while in custody at the Maricopa County jail.

Asked if it was the hardest decision she has ever had to make, Jennifer tears up and nods.

"All of it was," she says, "to have that responsibility in my hands of being the one to make that decision."

A NEEDLESS DEATH

Everyone agrees: Deborah Braillard did not have to die.

Her daughter is now taking her mother's death to court, suing Maricopa County and the Sheriff's Office in a case that opens this week in Pinal County Superior Court.

The ABC15 Investigators have obtained hundreds of pages of reports, medical records and documents and also hours of video depositions and jail house video. Throughout this trial, our reports will not only cover this case but shed light on what experts call a broken system inside Maricopa County jails that has led to needless deaths and tens of millions of taxpayer dollars paid out in lawsuits.

"It was pure neglect and just cruelty," Jennifer Braillard said. "Hearing and knowing the thing that happened to her in that jail facility are completely heartless."

What led to Braillard's death began in Maricopa County Jail in January 2005.

She was arrested and booked after she was arrested by Phoenix police on a minor drug possession charge.

While in custody, Braillard was not given medical care or medication for three full days, records show. That's something that would prove deadly.

MEDICAL MISTAKES

Braillard was a diabetic.

Without her insulin, guards and inmates said in pretrial testimony that she suffered for days before slipping into a diabetic coma.

Their depositions, obtained by the ABC15 Investigators, detail a disturbing chain of events. Witness said that Deborah was constantly moaning and crying out in pain, asking for help, repeatedly vomiting, defecating on herself and having seizures.

"She would shake. Her body would stiffen up," said Tamela Harper, an inmate in the jail with Braillard. "They never did anything to help her."

Inmates said they begged officers to do something.

"They were telling everyone, ‘There's nothing we can do about it. This is jail. Get over it,"' Harper said.

Harper added that officers said Braillard was "kicking drugs" and that she was "getting what she deserved."

Medical reports would later prove the guards were wrong.

"You want tough jails?," Jennifer Braillard said. "How much tougher can they get when people are dying."

FIGHT FOR JUSTICE, CHANGE

Through a spokesperson, Sheriff Joe Arpaio declined to be interviewed for this story.

But Jennifer Braillard and her attorney, Michael Manning, hope that the jury will hold the Sheriff's Office accountable for Deborah Braillard's death and force things to change.

"The conditions are deplorable," said Manning, who has won six other lawsuits against the Sheriff's Office for jail-related deaths.

In Maricopa County jails, roughly 75 percent of the population is detainees who have not been convicted and are still awaiting trial. The remaining are usually inmates who have been convicted of crimes with sentences less than a year.

In Deborah's case, information in reports and depositions revealed that the drugs discovered in her possession were likely those of her boyfriend.

Her autopsy report found that Braillard was drug free.

"There's no denying she had issues," Jennifer Braillard said. "But she wasn't a person deserving of the death that she endured."

Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at dbiscobing@abc15.com .

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