A settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit filed after the 2013 death of diabetic inmate Kory Dane Wilson, and county commissioners have agreed to pay $750,000 to his estate.
“Hopefully, this serves as a deterrent for jails around the state and the country not to do this…It’s just a tragedy,” said John Branum, an Oklahoma City attorney who was involved in the lawsuit. “There was not only a horrible, horrible thing that happened, there was a huge cover-up.”
The lawsuit claimed Wilson, 27, was denied medical care while incarcerated at the McClain County jail. The former jail administrator, Wayne Evans Barnes, admitted to violating Wilson’s rights and failing to obtain medical assistance for him after being sufficiently alerted to the inmate’s medical condition. Barnes was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison.
“Every law enforcement officer in this country takes an oath to uphold the United States Constitution,” said John Gore, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Constitution ensures that persons detained pending the adjudication of charges against them are entitled to necessary medical care. This sentence affirms the importance of that right and underscores the continuing commitment of the Civil Rights Division to hold officers accountable to their oaths.”
Wilson was arrested on June 16, 2013, at Newcastle Casino, for allegedly having a firearm and was placed behind bars. While being booked, he indicated he had Type 1 diabetes and needed insulin, according to records. The federal investigation found he was never given any medication nor taken to a doctor.
Over the course of the investigation, Barnes admitted to knowing that Wilson had had a diabetic episode and that he consciously made the decision not to transport the inmate to the hospital. Wilson’s family filed the lawsuit upon discovering further that Barnes enforced a verbal policy at the jail prohibiting its employees from calling for medical help on behalf of inmates without first securing his approval.
Wilson was found to be unresponsive on the floor of his cell and was hospitalized on June 19, 2013. He would never regain consciousness and passed two days later. An autopsy discovered the inmate had died of diabetic ketoacidosis.
On the day of his death, Wilson was formally charged in McClain County District Court with two felonies — knowingly concealing stolen property and carrying a weapon where alcohol is served. The case was dismissed a week later.
Attorneys for Wilson’s family said in court papers he suffered “a torturous death.” More than half the settlement money went toward attorney fees and expenses and Wilson’s final medical bills. The rest of the settlement is for his son.
Branum said, “If we treated … people … suspected of terrorism down in Guantanamo Bay the way that we treat our own citizens in county jails in Oklahoma, everybody would be up in arms about it. It would be on the nightly news.” Unfortunately, it remains relatively common for jail officials to ignore the medical needs of inmates, ultimately leading to their deaths.