A Texas Inmate's Newborn Died After She Gave Birth in Solitary Confinement, Lawsuit Claims
As Nicole Guerrero lay alone in a cell, moaning and crying in excruciating pain through the birth of her daughter, she heard the detention officers laugh, she says.
"What are y'all going to do with her?" they said, according to a lawsuit Guerrero filed recently against Wichita County.
Later, she says, she called for a nurse, but the nurse said she'd be right back. Instead, Guerrero says, it was a detention officer who eventually agreed to stop and check for the baby's head. He held the baby after Guerrero gave a final push, the suit says. But Guerrero's newborn daughter was a deep shade of purple.
Guerrero is now suing Wichita County in connection with the death of her baby daughter two years ago. The suit also names Wichita Sheriff David Duke, the jail's private health care provider, a company called Correctional Health Care Management, and nurse LaDonna Anderson as defendants.
Guerrero has a long arrest record, and she was in jail in June 2012 on a drug possession charge. Pregnant and on medication, she alleges she went into labor while in jail at around 11 p.m., just after lockdown. She pushed a medical emergency buzzer for help, she says, but her calls were ignored until 3:30 that morning. At that point, she was bleeding profusely, but Anderson, the nurse, didn't seem concerned. According to Guerrero's complaint, the nurse brushed off Guerrero's bleeding as a side effect of the medication, and detention officers then escorted Guerrero to a separate cell, called "the cage," where she remained alone until the birth of her daughter.
After the detention officer held Guerrero's purple baby, Anderson entered the "the cage" and took the baby, Guerrero's complaint says, telling her: "Just to let you know, I had to unwrap the cord from the baby's neck, and as long as we don't cut the cord, she's gonna have some bit of oxygen to help her."
The suit claims Anderson also failed to provide any CPR to the baby, and "simply patted the baby lightly on her back until the ambulance arrived, approximately 20 minutes later."
The EMTs unsuccessfully tried to revive the baby girl. She was pronounced dead at a hospital shortly after.
Reached by the Observer, Sheriff Duke forwarded an interview request over to the Wichita County District Attorney's office. "We are unable to comment on pending litigation," the D.A.'s office wrote in an email.
According to the advocacy group the Texas Jail Project, there are an estimated 500 pregnant women incarcerated in Texas jails every month. Texas lawmakers in 2009 passed legislation requiring jails to come up with a treatment plan for pregnant women and banned jails from restraining women during labor and recovery. Two years later, ACLU investigated the five largest county jail systems in the state and found that some jails, including jails in Dallas County, continued to use shackles on pregnant women anyway.
Guerrero is currently serving time in state jail for possession of meth, theft under $1500 and possession of cocaine.
Her complaint is below:
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.