Henri E. Cauvin's Oct. 1 Metro article, "D.C. Jail Stay Ends in Death for Quadriplegic Md. Man"; an Oct. 2 editorial, "An Inmate's Death"; and two op-ed columns by Colbert I. King, "Another Unnecessary Death in D.C." [Oct. 9] and "A Son's Death, a Mother's Unanswered Questions" [Oct. 16], concerned the death of Jonathan Magbie while in the custody of the D.C. Department of Corrections. Mr. Magbie had been sentenced to 10 days in jail for possession of marijuana.
I would like to provide information about the sentencing from public court records that has not been included in some of The Post's coverage.
At the time of his arrest, Mr. Magbie had four grams of crack cocaine in his pocket and a 9mm semiautomatic pistol loaded with 20 rounds of ammunition that he told the co-defendant to place on him. Police also found marijuana in the car.
A grand jury indicted Mr. Magbie on charges of carrying a pistol without a license, possession of an unregistered firearm, possession of ammunition, possession of a prohibited weapon (a machine gun), possession of cocaine and possession of marijuana. Mr. Magbie pleaded guilty to the marijuana charge. As the law allowed, Superior Court Judge Judith E. Retchin considered the surrounding circumstances at the time of sentencing on the marijuana charge.
The Oct. 16 op-ed column quoted an e-mail from the Department of Corrections to Mr. King. It said that a physician with the Corrections Department had expressed his concern that Mr. Magbie did not belong in the D.C. Jail, given the nature of the sentence and his overall medical condition. Court records, however, reflect that while a doctor did call to say that he should be in the hospital, not the jail, neither Mr. Magbie's lawyer nor anyone else requested that the sentence be modified.
The column ended with quotes from a January hearing transcript during which Judge Retchin said she would issue a warrant for Mr. Magbie's arrest, instead of waiving his appearance at a status hearing because he was recovering from pneumonia. Not included was a quote later in the transcript that made it clear that Judge Retchin decided not to issue a warrant and rescheduled the case.
Mr. Magbie's death is a tragedy. It should not have happened. We must determine what went wrong based on as full and accurate an inquiry into the facts as possible, and we must work to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. Mischaracterization of the facts has no place in such an inquiry.
RUFUS G. KING III
Superior Court of the District of Columbia