On May 29, 59-year-old Martha Stanley was arrested in Detroit. Less than a day later, she was found dead in her Wayne County jail cell.
The woman’s family is now suing Wayne County and two deputies, claiming she endured “inhumane” conditions at the jail—including being denied food, water, and medical treatment.
“Martha Stanley was so physically weak from the abhorrent conditions that she was subjected to at the WCJ, specifically, no air conditioning in the building despite extreme heat, lack of medical treatment, and no access to food or water, that she eventually became unable to walk,” according to the federal lawsuit filed last week in the Eastern District of Michigan.
As temperatures soared to a sweltering 85 degrees in Detroit, Stanley’s health continued to decline, but the two on-duty deputies, identified as Graham and Thomas, only taunted Stanley as she begged for help, the lawsuit alleges.
“Don’t expect me to feel sorry for you. Don’t expect me to give you any motherf--king sympathy,” they allegedly told the dehydrated woman, who was going through drug withdrawal in her stifling jail cell, according to the lawsuit.
That environment eventually caused Stanley, who had a heart condition, to enter cardiac arrest, claims the lawsuit, which accuses the Wayne County jail of neglect and “failing to train, supervise, and discipline its law enforcement officials.” The lawsuit also alleges violation of due process and cruel and unusual treatment.
Stanley’s family members, who are seeking $75,000 in funeral costs and emotional damages, say the 59-year-old ultimately died from dehydration and drug withdrawal, according to the lawsuit. The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office has not released Stanley’s autopsy, Michigan Live reported.
Stanley, who was arrested for “felonious assault,” a charge that was dropped after her death, told officers at the Wayne County jail about her health problems, but Graham and Thomas ignored her cries for help, the lawsuit says. Stanley was allegedly “verbally begging Defendants to provide her with medical attention for her withdrawal symptoms and dehydration.”
“[She was] manifesting physical signs of substance withdrawal, such as profuse sweating, dehydration, and inability to walk, among other obvious physical signs of her deteriorating physical state,” the lawsuit claims.
Stanley told her sister about her deteriorating health, the poor treatment she was receiving, and the jail’s conditions during a morning phone call on May 30, the lawsuit states.
“When you have a weather condition and the cooling system in the jail isn't working like it should be and it's hot like that, and you have people with heat exhaustion, you can't breathe right, what can you do?” Stanley’s son Arthur Simpson told Fox 2 Detroit. “You ask them and you don’t get it, then what do you do.”
Stanley’s son also told the outlet he was on his way to bail Stanley out of jail when he learned in a phone call that his mother was dead.
“I was coming down here to meet with their family, they called me to tell them they were on their way with the money,” Joel Sexton of A-1 Bail Bonds told Fox 2 Detroit.
Shortly after his mother’s death, Simpson said: “I saw them take her. And within 48 hours later, she is dead inside the jail. What happened? That’s what I want to know.”
Wayne County did not respond to multiple requests for comment.