Diana Sanchez, on behalf of her baby, is suing the city and county of Denver, Colorado after she was forced to deliver her now-1-year-old son in a “dirty” Denver County jail cell alone and with no medical help, court records show.
Her 47-page federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Colorado Wednesday details the “horrific” experience on what she and her lawyers say should have been among the “happiest days of her life.” Instead, Sanchez’s lawyers say her day involved, “unnecessary terror, body pain, and humiliation that continues to cause her ongoing emotional trauma.”
Sanchez was arrested on an identity theft charge by Denver Police in July of 2018.
In her complaint, Sanchez says she was forced to give birth to her baby boy, named in the lawsuit under the initials J.S.M., on a “cold, hard bench, feet away from a toilet, in a jail cell at the Denver County Jail, all alone and with no medical supervision or treatment.”
Sanchez says Denver county health department nurses and the jail staff knew her water had broken, that she was days away from her due date, and was in active labor for hours, yet left her alone and she delivered her baby “alone in a dirty jail cell without any medical care, because it was inconvenient to take her to the hospital during the jail’s booking process.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. In Excruciating Pain, Diana Sanchez Gives Birth on a Denver Jail Cell Cot Alone
Sanchez had been held in the Denver County Jail for nearly two weeks before, on July 31, 2018, she told deputies at 5 a.m. that she was in labor. Her water broke at 9:45 a.m.
And after nearly six hours in labor, at 10:44 a.m., Sanchez gave birth on a jail cot. She was alone. She had no medical staff with her. In the video, she can be seen writhing in extreme labor pain and though there’s no audio, it’s clear she was screaming out in pain and likely for help.
It wasn’t until her son left the birth canal and his dark blue body can be seen, albeit blurred for her privacy, still connected umbilically, that a person in a blue scrub top can be seen entering the cell.
2. Sanchez is Suing the City & County of Denver, the Denver Health Medical Center & Several Individuals
“Instead of ensuring that Ms. Sanchez was able to give birth in a safe and sanitary medical setting, Denver Health nurses and Denver Sheriff deputies callously made her labor alone for hours, and ultimately give birth alone in a dirty jail cell without any medical care, because it was inconvenient to take her to the hospital during the jail’s booking process.”
The suit states that once baby “J.S.M. arrived, jail medical staff was totally unequipped to care for him.”
Attorney Mari Newman called the actions, and inaction, by jail and health department staff “outrageous.”
The lawsuit claims that jail and health officials violated her and her newborn’s rights “constitutional and state law
“This suit is brought to hold to account the officials who cruelly chose convenience over
compassion,” the complaint reads.
“Any layperson can see that a woman who has been in labor for hours and hours and who is yelling, calling that she’s in labor and needs to call the hospital needs to go to the hospital, pick up the phone and call 911,” Newman told local media.
3. Sanchez Was Told by a Nurse a Week Prior to Get ‘Immediate Help’ if She Went Into Labor & Though She Told Jail Nurses & Deputies She Was in Labor, No One Helped her, the Suit Claims & Video Shows
Sanchez was arrested and placed in jail July 14, 2018. She told officials she was eight months pregnant. She had a due date of Aug. 9. She was on legal methadone maintenance but was placed in a jail withdrawal process. A few days after being placed in the jail, Sanchez was examined and found to have a bacterial infection that the lawsuit says could lead to premature birth.
A nurse told her she needed to get immediate medical help if she started having early contractions or if her water broke. She did that, when, on July 31, she went into labor and her water broke. The baby was coming nine days premature. But immediate medical help was not provided. Rather, she was left to lay on a jail cot and deliver her own baby.
The lawsuit names the Denver Health and Hospital Authority as it provides medical services at the
jail. The suit names the city and county as it is responsible for the Denver Police Department and the Denver Sheriff’s Department and jail. But the lawsuit also names Denver Health nurses working in the jail; Rachime Herch and Nina Chacon. It also names jail deputies Alexandra Wherry, Michael Hart, Tysen Garcia and Justin Albee.
In the lawsuit, the alleged neglect is detailed.
4. At No Time Did Any of the Deputies Call For Emergency Help Despite Her Screams, Blood & ‘Obvious’ Signs She Needed Immediate Medical Help
It was booking time at the jail and very busy. Interrupting the booking process for an emergency run to the hospital was rejected by staff, Sanchez’s lawsuit alleges. So a call was placed for a no-emergency van that would arrive at some point after the booking process was over, at around noon.
And so, over the course of hours, three jail deputies, one a sergeant, and two nurses watched on and off as Sanchez went from early labor to a blood-soaked delivery on the cot without ever intervening, calling 911 or taking any other emergency measures. A dozen in the complaint is dedicated to what they did, and did not, do making a case for neglect. According to the complaint, it appears that deputies, despite knowing the woman was in desperate need of medical help deferred to nurse Herch.
Sanchez’s screams and obvious distress as she was about to give birth prompted deputies to inform Herch, who was on the phone and said he was not to be bothered, they “gloved up” to prepare to help deliver the baby but still, never called 911. And still, just watched.
“Realizing that no medical care was forthcoming, and that she could wait no longer, Ms. Sanchez removed her underwear and prepared to deliver the Baby J.S.M. on her own. This too, was captured by the video feed from Ms. Sanchez’s cell, yet no medical care was provided to her,” the suit reads.
Sanchez yelled that the baby was coming, and jailers could see that and yelled to Herch for help but still, she was nonetheless left alone.
It wasn’t until after Sanchez birthed her baby alone that healthcare workers showed up, and then, there was no medical setup in place to deal with necessary protocols in a delivery, like severing the umbilical cord.
Sanchez’s lawyer wrote, “In fact, the Denver Health nursing staff never was able to come up with the necessary equipment, and was unable to clamp the umbilicus until the Denver Fire Department arrived at Ms. Sanchez’s cell at approximately 10:58 a.m. At that point, the Fire Department and Denver paramedics took over care for Ms. Sanchez and Baby J.S.M. At 11:16 a.m., Ms. Sanchez and her newborn son left Denver County Jail to be transported to Denver Health Medical Center.”
5. The Sheriff Ordered an Investigation & Found Deputies Followed Protocol & Acted Appropriately
In its initial statement provided to media, a spokesperson for the Denver Sheriff’s Office said inmate “care and well-being” is a “top priority for the Denver Sheriff’s Department, which is why we contract with Denver Health to provide comprehensive medical care at both of our jails.” The statement went on to read that once department administrators learned that “Sanchez gave birth in a cell,” Denver County Sheriff Patrick Firman ordered an internal review and following that review found that deputies “took the appropriate actions under the circumstances and followed the relevant policies and procedures.” Although it was reported that “policy has since been clarified that when an inmate is in labor, an emergency ambulance will be called.”
But after a Heavy call to Denver sheriff’s office public information officer Daria Serner, a new, revised statement was provided.
“The City empathizes with anyone who is in jail while pregnant including Ms. Sanchez,” the city wrote in a statement emailed to Heavy.
“We contract with Denver Health Medical to provide comprehensive medical care at both of our jails. Denver Health medical professionals are housed in the jail facilities and have dedicated medical units to provide medical services for those in our care. Ms. Sanchez was in the medical unit and under the care of Denver health medical professionals at the time she gave birth. To make sure nothing like this happens again, the Denver Sheriff Department has changed its policies to ensure that pregnant inmates who are in any stage of labor are now transported immediately to the hospital. Unfortunately, because there is a lawsuit pending, we are unable to provide further comment at this time.”