Scott County Sheriff Perpetuates Cover Up of Inmates Cause-of-Death

In the wake of a civil rights/wrongful death action charging Scott County, Scott County Sheriff Ronnie Phillips, Scott County Sheriff’s Office employees, and a heath-services contractor with, among other atrocities, failing to provide adequate medical care over a two-week period to an inmate suffering from a massive MRSA infection that proved fatal (/blog/), Phillips has
taken to the media in an attempt to defend his officers’ actions and inaction.

Speaking to the Independent Herald, Phillips stated that former inmate Shane Pemberton was “not denied any kind of treatment” and that “Sheriff’s Department personnel believe Pemberton died from a brain aneurysm.”

On Thursday, Pemberton’s attorney, Lance Baker of Knoxville, responded, stating:

“contrary to the final autopsy report, Phillips’ own Chief Detective had claimed that needle-marks on Mr. Pemberton’s arms showed that he died from a drugrelated cause. It now appears that Phillips has retracted this unmerited claim. Yet, Phillips’ latest statements are also flatly-contradicted by hundreds of pages of medical records released by  two hospitals and by the final autopsy report of Knox County Chief Medical Examiner, Darinka Mileusnic.”

Baker says, medically speaking, the autopsy revealed that Pemberton’s death was caused by an infection that, by the time Scott County officers found him comatose on the floor of a cell, had “spread to every major organ in his body, including his heart and brain.” In a statement, Baker emphasized that Dr. Mileusnic’s report described Pemberton’s brain as having “massive bacterial colonies.” Not only was his death not caused by a “brain aneurysm,” as Phillips now suggests, but one medical professional examined Pemberton and observed, “it would have taken days to get that amount of infection all over the body.”

Phillips’ office also claims that Pemberton went through a thorough “medical screening” at the jail. Whether that is true – and again, Baker says that it is not – Phillips tip-toes around important issues involving Pemberton’s two-week incarceration that ended in his death. For example, Baker says that Phillips does not explain why that, as the infection was spreading through Pemberton’s body, and he was exhibiting tell-tale signs and symptoms of a serious medical problem (for instance, he could not walk or stand on his own), no one noticed the severity of his illness. And if they did, Baker asks, “why did they not send him to a hospital, where his life could have been saved with IV-antibiotics and aggressive treatment?”

Finally, Baker’s statement says that as bad as Pemberton’s in-jail treatment was, once he was found comatose, Phillips’ officers acted irresponsibly, waiting needlessly to call E-911 until Pemberton was “cleaned up” by other inmates and making at least four telephone calls to obtain “instructions” from supervisors. Then, Baker says, “Phillips’ officers not only misinformed medical professionals
about Pemberton’s condition and the events leading up to his death, but they also doctored jail-records to cover-up their misdeeds.”

“We look forward to having our day in Court, where we expect to prove, by medical and other testimony, that the actions of all of the defendants in this case substantially contributed to Mr. Pemberton’s death,” Baker said.

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