Tuesday, September 26, 2023
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ICE, County Can’t Escape HIV Death Claims

(CN) - A federal judge partially nixed claims against Kern County over the deaths of HIV-positive prisoners who died while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Dora Baires, the mother of Juan Carlos Baires, brought the lawsuit on behalf of her son in 2009 after he died at the Lerdo Jail in Kern County, where he had been held for 54 days. Baires says her son's only crime "was that he was an undocumented alien."

She says that while in custody, Juan Carlos asked for and was denied his HIV medications. He contracted an infection in his foot and died shortly thereafter of cardiac arrest.

In a letter to his girlfriend Juan Carlos wrote, "The pain makes me cry like a little boy . . . I am writing the letter little by little because the pain will not let me do anything. I don't even have an appetite because of it. The only thing I do is cry. I cry as I have never cried before."

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer granted Kern County's motion for summary judgment as to Baires' claims for negligence, emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. But Breyer allowed her negligence claim for the county's failure to summon medical care to go forward.

Breyer also dismissed negligence and emotional distress claims against Kern County brought by another HIV-positive inmate at the Lerdo jail. Teofilo Miranda says he was denied his HIV medication and "lives with the memory of agonizing physical suffering and a near-death experience while incarcerated by ICE."

But Breyer refused the federal government's motion for judgment on the pleadings, finding that ICE closed its review of the Lerdo Jail too early.

"In their opposition to the government's motion, plaintiffs identified numerous non-discretionary duties with which the government did not comply, including but not limited to the requirement that ICE not close review of a facility until all deficiencies have been addressed and corrected," Breyer wrote. "Despite Lerdo's assertion that it could not conduct medical evaluations within fourteen days of a detainee's arrival, ICE closed its review of the facility, in violation of federal guidelines."

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