The Associated Press
Updated: February 26, 2020 10:51 AM
Created: February 26, 2020 10:45 AM
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — An inmate’s suspected suicide recently in a New Mexico prison occurred as two new lawsuits accuse the state Corrections Department of negligence in inmate deaths at another penitentiary.
One of the lawsuits, filed Feb. 11 in state District Court, says the department ordered medical personnel to remove 39-year-old Efrain Perez Martinez from life support in early 2019 over the protests of family members, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports.
Another case, a wrongful death complaint filed Feb. 20 in U.S. District Court, accuses Corrections Department officials of failing to provide heart medication to an inmate with a known heart condition in the days leading to his death in 2017.
Corrections spokesman Eric Harrison declined to comment on the pending litigation Monday.
Justin Guilez, 29, was found dead in his cell Wednesday at the Northwestern New Mexico Detention Facility in Grants, “in what was an apparent suicide,” Harrison confirmed.
Guilez was serving a four-year sentence for auto theft and drug possession, among other charges, according to online court records.
“As with so many of our clients experiencing poverty, he didn’t find his way to legal trouble through a disrespect for the law, but for a substance abuse problem that outstripped his capacity to cope,” public defender Shelby Bradley, who represented Guilez, said in an email Monday. “I am saddened for Mr. Guilez and his loved ones to hear that he has died.”
Harrison did not respond to a request for the state prison system’s suicide rate Monday afternoon.
The medical malpractice suit filed on behalf of Martinez says the Lea County man repeatedly requested medical care for what he thought could be an ulcer. He was given antacids for two months, the complaint says, but after he’d been vomiting bile for two days in November 2018, he finally was taken to a hospital.
Martinez was admitted to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center and diagnosed with a severe infection and diseases of the heart, liver and brain, according to the lawsuit. He was transferred to Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque for heightened care two days later, the suit says, but it was several weeks before someone notified his family he was in a medically induced coma.
The complaint says the Corrections Department had scant records of the care Martinez had received before his death.
In the second case, Jonathan Andrew Garcia was taken from the Penitentiary of New Mexico to Christus St. Vincent for treatment, his family says in the lawsuit. He then was forced to walk from the transport van and collapsed and died in the hospital’s parking lot, the lawsuit said. He had just turned 30.
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