What's Mom Worth?: When a Woman Became Deathly Ill in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Jail, Guards and Nurses Ignored Her Agony

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Jennylee then dashes over to her mom's house where she confronts her mom's boyfriend. He was with Deborah when she was arrested three nights earlier.

At 7 the next morning, Jennylee again phones the jail. She is put through to Dennis Flynn, risk manager with County Health. She informs him that her mother is an insulin-dependent diabetic who may not be receiving her medication.

"Was there any way he could get back to me?" she asks.


"He thanked me for calling and assured me something would be done. When I hung up, I didn't know what to do."

Stephanie Lieppert, guard

(2007 deposition)

"She threw up again after I moved her back into her cell [from the boat in the dayroom], and just knowing that she had been up that night vomiting and having diarrhea, that would indicate to me that someone needs to be seen."

She calls the medical clinic on the morning of January 5.

Is this the policy of the sheriff?

"No, it is not . . . We were given first-aid training, CPR training. They are very brief on the situation of kicking. We are not told to notify anyone in particular."

Lucy Akpan, guard

(2007 deposition)

After detention officer Garfias informed her that Braillard was kicking drugs, Akpan called the medical clinic on the morning of January 5.

It is Akpan's experience that the clinic is sometimes reluctant to respond to concerns about inmates' medical conditions.

"She started yelling and screaming — rolling, you know, in the boat . . . I said, 'She has to leave this place. She needs medical attention' . . . It's so devastating because I was, like, how can someone do this to herself?

"I'm a mother. I see sick people. I've seen sick children . . . I saw her yelling."

The medical clinic says it has no record of calls from guard Lieppert or guard Akpan.

Tamela Harper, inmate

(2007 deposition)

At 10 a.m. on January 5, ambulance attendants arrive at Estrella jail for Deborah Braillard.

"I was there for my Accu-Chek because I'm a diabetic.

"I saw her lying on the stretcher, and EMS was there helping her, and I heard one EMS ask the other one what was the vital signs. And when he told her the vital signs [116 over 63], they just looked at each other, like, wow. And that's when they took her out.

"The officer started yelling at me for me to sit down, and I started yelling at him, 'You were wrong for all that. You could have helped her.'

"I was told by the guard, 'Sit down and don't be looking at this. This is none of your concern.'

"Us inmates requested medical attention more than half a dozen times.

"They wouldn't do it. 'She's kicking.' 'Get over it. Deal with it. This is jail.' 'It was her fault that she did it to herself. What can we do?'"

Jennylee Braillard, daughter

(2010 interviews)

"I was living with my grandmother. After my uncle moved to Arizona, he convinced my grandmother to move to Phoenix to escape Mom's drama. We came here in '95-'96. My mom moved to Spokane, and we all took a trip back to Washington to see her. We went out to dinner, but that was when I was angry with Mom. I didn't want to be apart. Didn't understand why she did the things she did. I ran out to the bathroom. Mom followed me, and we had serious discussion about all this, both crying. The thing I remember is her saying over and over that she loved me. She said she never hit me.

"I vented, and then things were fine between us. I had to accept who she was. She did take care of me. She was good to me.

"She visited Arizona twice, and that's when we learned, at the hospital, that she was a diabetic. It runs in the family.

"Shortly after that, she moved to Arizona. She drove her beat-up Datsun full of her stuff and lived with me and Grandma. We both worked in my uncle's pizza place. At first, there was conflict, because she tried to become boss in the house. But she improved herself in all areas. She was clean."

If Jennylee was content with the status quo, her mom was not. She stage-managed a romance for her daughter.

"She instigated this thing where I went out with [a] driver for the pizzeria. He had a buzzed head with a blue dot."

When the family pizza business closed its doors, mother and daughter went to work at a nearby Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Consider: Deputy Cindy Rodriguez does the intake interview of Deborah Braillard about 2 a.m. January 2. Officer Rodriguez is required to interview Braillard about her medical history. This is when the Sheriff's Office should've discovered that the inmate was an insulin-dependent diabetic.

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Michael Lacey
Contact: Michael Lacey