Inmate Fights for Records About Baby’s Death

MILWAUKEE (CN) – After laughing off her cries for help as she went into labor in a jail cell, an inmate claims the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office is withholding documents related to the death of her baby hours after its birth.

Shadé Swayzer filed a lawsuit Monday in Milwaukee County Circuit Court claiming the sheriff’s department will not release information related to the July 14 incident in the Milwaukee County Jail. Local news reports say Swayzer had filed a pre-suit notice of claim seeking $8.5 million in damages,

The lawsuit names as a defendant outspoken conservative Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr., a vocal supporter of President-elect Donald Trump who is reportedly being considered for a position in Washington, D.C.

The baby’s death, which a private healthcare provider claims in local news reports was a stillbirth, was just one of four in Clarke’s jail this year.

According to Swayzer’s open-records complaint, she was placed in a maximum security unit at the jail on July 7, despite her pregnancy and “severe mental illness.” She says her pregnancy was progressing normally at this point.

A corrections officer laughed when Swayzer told them her water had broken and she was going into labor at midnight on July 14, she claims.

When the baby was born in her cell at 4 a.m., it “cried profusely, and was breast fed,” the complaint states.

Staff did not discover Swayzer had given birth until she had spent four hours in labor alone in her cell and until two hours after the baby was born, she claims. The baby died at an unspecified time that day.

In a statement released July 14, the sheriff’s office claimed Swayzer had not told staff she was going into labor, though it did not address Swayzer’s claim they knew she was eight-and-a-half months pregnant. The statement also indicates she was housed in the “special needs” section of the jail.

Clarke’s detectives are handling the investigation, according to the statement, and the cause of death was to be determined by autopsy, the results of which have not yet been released.

Detective Cory Clark attempted to shunt the records request to medical personnel, Swayzer claims, despite the private medical contractor already responding to their portion of the records request.

According to the lawsuit, no one at the sheriff’s office adequately responded to several emailed and hand-delivered requests for records relating to “booking, classification, officers’ names, housing logs, incident reports, internal affairs investigations, etc.”

Instead, co-defendant Capt. Catherine Trimboli delivered a “boilerplate response” on Oct. 14 and promised via email that more would be forthcoming. That was the final communication on the matter, Swayzer claims.

The sheriff’s media relations officer referred Courthouse News to the county’s legal department.

Swayzer’s open-records complaint seeks punitive damages.

Her lawyer, Jason Jankowski with Wauwatosa-based Judge Lang & Katers LLC, did not immediately return a voicemail requesting comment Tuesday morning.