LUCEDALE — A Mississippi county has agreed to a $2.75 million settlement in a federal lawsuit for the wrongful death of an insulin-dependent inmate held in the county jail.
William Joel Dixon, 28, died in his jail cell at the George County Regional Correctional Facility on Sept. 24, 2014, after seven days without insulin. The George County jail’s former nurse, Carmon Sue Brannan, 58, is serving a 15-year manslaughter sentence for Dixon’s death.
“Simply put, this matter arose from a senseless and tragic combination of a lack of basic human compassion and policies which prevented those who wanted to help Joel from being able to help him,” said Garner Wetzel, one of the attorneys who represented the inmate’s estate.
Dixon died despite the jail having insulin on hand to treat him. His mother delivered one batch of insulin to the jail, and a George County jailer fetched another batch from the glove compartment of Dixon’s car at the time of his Sept. 17, 2014, arrest. During the jail stay, Dixon repeatedly begged for help as his condition deteriorated; Brannan ignored those pleas, blaming his symptoms on methamphetamine withdrawal.
The wrongful death lawsuit was filed on behalf of Dixon’s estate; his mother, Donna Dixon; and his children against George County, Brannan and the city of Lucedale. A judge later dismissed Lucedale as a defendant.
The settlement represents more than half the county’s general fund budget of $4.3 million, The Sun Herald reported. George County supervisors passed the resolution last week agreeing to the settlement amount. The county’s insurance carrier has paid more than $500,000 in attorney’s fees and had agreed to pay $250,000 of the overall settlement amount.
U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden ordered the county to pay $1 million within 14 days of the May 31 judgment in federal court in Gulfport. The remaining $1.75 million is due within 90 days of the settlement date, Ozerden’s order said.
The judgment also calls on George County officials to write a letter of apology to Dixon’s family.
“The Dixon family endured eight heart-wrenching years of criminal and civil litigation and a groundless claim against Joel’s mother for defamation,” Wetzel said. “Throughout, the Dixon family conducted themselves with dignity despite their loss and rallied around Joel’s children.”
Wetzel said the county’s agreement “closes a chapter in this sad ordeal.”
The Dixon family expressed appreciation for the public’s interest in the case but asked for privacy “so that Joel’s children be permitted to move forward with their lives just like any other young people.”
The family also thanked their team of attorneys and former District Attorney Tony Lawrence and Assistant District Attorney Cherie Wade for their successful prosecution of the criminal case against Brannan.
Wetzel said the family hopes the judgment motivates officials nationwide to ensure that inmates receive proper medical care.
“Their fervent hope is that the tragedy of Joel’s death leads to meaningful change to prevent these preventable and needless losses of life,” he said.