US Marijuana Party

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Justice for a 'Death of Neglect'

By Colbert I. King
Washington Post, United States
Saturday, September 17, 2005; Page A21

Next Tuesday marks the first anniversary of 27-year-old Jonathan Magbie's final encounter with the D.C. government. It will be no cause for celebration.

It was on Sept. 20, 2004, that D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Retchin sentenced Magbie, a quadriplegic since an accident at age 4, to 10 days in the D.C. jail. His crime? Possession of marijuana.

Five days after falling into the hands of the D.C. government, Magbie was dead. He died a horrible death. It was preventable. But nobody in the system cared.

Looking down from her bench, Retchin saw a first-time offender. He controlled his wheelchair with a mouth-operated device. He could breathe only with a battery-controlled pulmonary pacemaker. At night he needed the assistance of a respirator. He could have been sentenced to home detention, where he would have had round-the-clock attention. Instead, Retchin, apparently upset when Magbie refused to swear off weed, which helped him get through a miserable existence, sent him to that taxpayer-supported hellhole near the Anacostia River known as the D.C. jail.

What happened to Magbie at the jail and at Greater Southeast Community Hospital, where his life ended five days later, shouldn't happen to a dog. In fact, it doesn't happen to dogs and cats in the custody of decent and caring people. But Magbie had no one in his corner except his mother, Mary Scott, and she could not join him in jail.

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