Quadriplegic First-Time Pot Offender Dies in Jail

27 year-old Jonathan Magbie became a quadriplegic while still a kid after being hit by a drunk driver. He got by with constant help from his relatives and an electric wheelchair, which he controlled with his chin. Drug Policy Alliance reports (after reviewing a Washington Post article on the case.)

Magbie was arrested more than a year ago for possession of marijuana. He was in a car at the time of his arrest. Police found cocaine and a gun in the car. Though the Post does not explicitly mention that Magbie was not driving, nor that the gun was not Magbie's, the man could move nothing but his head -- making it safe to assume he was a passenger in a car in which someone else was transporting a gun. Magbie was finally tried on the marijuana charge 11 days ago. As a first-time offender in DC, according to the Post, he could expect to receive probation. What he received, though, amounted to a death sentence.

Before aptly named DC Superior Court Judge Judith E. Retchin, Magbie admitted to possessing marijuana. Though he had nothing to do with the gun, Retchin told him that "it is just unacceptable to be riding around in a car with a loaded gun in this city." Further, Retchin learned that Magbie had "told pre-sentence investigators that he would continue using [medical marijuana], which he said made him feel better." Based on this information, Retchin sentenced Magbie to ten days in DC jail -- where able-bodied inmates are sometimes killed -- and where disabled and sick prisoners sometimes die of neglect after being subjected to brutal, absent and reckless treatment.

What kind of judge is Retchin? According to the Washington Post:

By the standards of D.C. Superior Court, the 10-day sentence rendered by Judge Judith E. Retchin was unusually punitive for a first-time offender such as Magbie. Along with his defense attorney, Boniface Cobbina, a pre-sentence report had recommended probation, and the U.S. attorney's office had not objected. But Retchin rejected probation alone. A former federal prosecutor who became a Superior Court judge in 1992, Retchin is known to dispense stiff sentences. "Mr. Magbie, I'm not giving you straight probation," the judge said, according to a transcript of the Sept. 20 proceedings. "Although you did not plead guilty to having this gun, it is just unacceptable to be riding around in a car with a loaded gun in this city."

Read the entire Post article through to the end. Don't miss the part about how the jail was in no way equipped to handle someone with Magbie's medical needs. And about how within 7 hours of arriving at the jail, he was taken to a hospital, which refused to keep him, resulting in him being sent back to jail. And about how the same Judge who sentenced him refused to sign an order for re-hospitalization, saying she didn't have the authority.

Here's what the Post reports:

Ahead of Magbie's sentencing, a staff member in Retchin's chambers contacted the office of Chief Judge Rufus G. King III to find out whether the D.C. Corrections Department would be able to house a paralyzed person in a wheelchair. The answer from the chief judge's office, which is the liaison with Corrections, was yes. Leah Gurowitz, a court spokeswoman, said yesterday that the full extent of Magbie's paralysis was inadvertently not relayed to the chief judge's office.

Judge Rechin's response:

In a statement yesterday, Retchin said she was led to believe "that Mr. Magbie's medical needs could be met; this was such an unintended tragedy. I would like to convey my deepest sympathy to Mr. Magbie's family."

"Inadvertently not relayed?" ..."Led to believe?"....They should both be sent to the D.C. jail to finish serving Magbie's ten day sentence.

< ABA Slams Proposed Extraordinary Renditon Bill | 'The Boss' Opens for Kerry in Philadelphia >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort: