In Pr. George's, Concern Over 2007 Inmate Death

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 5, 2008

Demetri R. Stover was in the Prince George's County jail awaiting trial on charges he stole $60 worth of merchandise from a grocery store when another inmate punched him. Stover fell to the ground. He was found convulsing in his cell less than four hours later; within a week, he was dead.

But as authorities sought to prosecute the inmate who hit Stover, evidence emerged that Stover's subsequent treatment at the jail might have contributed to his death. Stover, 46, was evaluated and released from the medical ward in about five minutes.

The inmate who punched him, Octuan Gant, was initially charged with manslaughter but pleaded guilty to second-degree assault. He is to be sentenced today.

His attorney said in court that he and the prosecution "agree the facts would not show that the injury resulting in [Stover's] death was directly linked to the conduct of the defendant."

"The evidence would have shown other actions by the emergency response team and by medical personnel that were the direct link," attorney Michael D. Beach said.

Beach did not elaborate. Prosecutors did not dispute his claim. Both sides have since declined to comment on Beach's assertion.

A video recording of the Aug. 17, 2007, incident shows that the guards who tended to Stover, 46, after the assault handled him roughly as they took him to the medical ward. The video shows that Stover's evaluation lasted about five minutes.

"He did not get the right medical treatment," Stover's mother, Mary Fulwood, said yesterday. "I believe if he had gotten the medical treatment he needed, it would have been a different story. But he didn't, and that hurts me. What can you do in five minutes?"

Vernon Herron, the county's director of public safety, said Stover was examined by nurses with Correctional Medical Services, a county contractor.

"It is of great concern to us that Mr. Stover later died as a result of his injuries, and we have met with CMS and conveyed those concerns to them," Herron said in a statement.

A spokesman for the company declined to comment, citing patient confidentiality.

For reasons involving liability, the team of guards that responds to emergencies at the county jail is supposed to use a hand-held camera to document its actions. The recording of the Stover incident was reviewed by The Washington Post.

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