Joyce Curnell, a 50-year-old black woman from South Carolina, was taken to Roper Hospital in July 2015 due to stomach flu. When it was revealed that there was an outstanding warrant for her arrest for 2011 misdemeanor shoplifting charge, she was taken into custody by Charleston County authorities.
Curnell, who was battling sickle cell disease, alcoholism and hypertension, according to New York Daily News, was found dead just over a day later. It’s being reported that she spent 27 hours in jail before she died due to complications of the stomach flu and dehydration.
Within minutes of Curnell being placed in a jail cell, she started to vomit and was given a trash bag by a nurse in case she couldn’t make it to the bathroom. According to her lawyers, she was even too sick to cry out for help. There’s no official record of jail staff consistently watching over Curnell in her stay.
She was last checked on at 2:12 p.m. and was found unresponsive at 5:00 p.m., according to a statement from the family’s attorney.
According to the Daily News, staff at the hospital recommended that Curnell get immediate treatment if she showed any flu-like symptoms while in their custody.
Curnell’s family’s lawyers reached out to Dr. Maria Gibson who concluded that her vomiting likely initiated her sickle cell disease which made her dehydration even more dangerous.
“Providing access to reasonable medical care to those under police custody is a necessity, not a privilege,” said James Moore III, the family’s attorney, according to The Grio. “It is a constitutional right. We are committed to seeking justice for Joyce and for her family.”
Curnell’s death was looked into by South Carolina’s State Law Enforcement Division but the report hasn’t been made public as of yet.
“This is not a situation in which Joyce needed access to cutting edge medical care to save her life,” said attorney Scott C. Evans. “She needed fluids and the attention of a doctor. Not only has nobody been prosecuted in connection with Joyce’s death, it does not appear that any employee has even been reprimanded.”
A “March for Joyce Curnell” is planned for Friday morning in Charleston.
Photo Credit: Murray’s Mortuary