Mother files suit in jail death Detention center kept son's asthma medicine, lawyer says

Ecker defends employees

December 01, 1998|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

The mother of a 22-year-old man who died of an asthma attack at the Howard County Detention Center this summer has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that jail officials did not provide her son with his medication.

Jail officials declined to comment on the lawsuit in the June death of Parrish Michael Spinoso of Ellicott City, but Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker said the jail did nothing wrong.

"I have every confidence that our people at the detention center did everything correctly," said Ecker, who was notified of the lawsuit yesterday.

The suit, filed last week in U.S. District Court by Spinoso's mother, Carol Lee Spinoso, seeks $10 million in damages. She could not be reached for comment yesterday, but her lawyer, Marvin Ellin, said the jail was negligent in not providing Spinoso with his inhaler or asthma medication.

"Had this young man been given his medication, steroids, inhaler, there would be no suit filed," Ellin said.

Spinoso was arrested Friday, June 5, on drug distribution charges. He spent the weekend in jail and died about 6: 30 a.m. Sunday, June 7.

The lawsuit alleges that jail officials knew about Spinoso's serious asthma condition but withheld his medication, even after Spinoso suffered an asthma attack Saturday.

Spinoso asked for his medications after that attack, the suit alleges, but was told that a jail doctor would have to approve their return on Monday.

Another inmate said in a sworn affidavit that he heard Spinoso beg for his asthma medication.

In that statement, Russell W. Shaver Jr., 21, also said he heard Spinoso complain to a nurse on Saturday that he had difficulty breathing.

Spinoso was taking four medications, including contents of the inhaler, for his asthma condition, jail officials said in June. Spinoso had his inhaler with him in his cell, the officials said.

Jail officials have said that Spinoso took medication 11 hours before his fatal attack. Spinoso also saw a nurse four times in 42 hours, they said, to be treated for heroin withdrawal.

Spinoso was given two drugs to treat that withdrawal -- Ecotrin (coated aspirin) and Vistaril, the jail officials said. The medical examiners' office originally said no drugs were found in Spinoso's system, but further lab tests released recently showed that the two drugs were found.

Spinoso, a 1994 graduate of Mount St. Joseph High School, had dropped out of Catonsville Community College not long before his death, his mother has said.

Spinoso was arrested during a police raid on alleged drug peddlers in Howard County and he was using heroin daily, according to police and jail officials.

After he was arrested -- an arrest witnessed by a Sun reporter -- police uncuffed Spinoso and allowed him to use an inhaler.

Spinoso was diagnosed with asthma when he was 2, the lawsuit says, and suffered severe asthma attacks until his death.

Pub Date: 12/01/98

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