Though most of Monday’s testimony has focused on whether systemic failures were responsible for Elliott Williams’ 2011 death in Tulsa’s jail, former Sheriff Stanley Glanz also was forced to explain his use of a racially offensive term — “negronoid” — and defend his claim that he’s an honest person.
At one point, Glanz appeared to be walking back his 2016 guilty plea involving theft of county funds — accepting a $600 car allowance while driving a county vehicle — but attorney Dan Smolen, representing Williams’ estate, pushed the issue.
“I pled guilty to using a police car” for non-police business, he said at first. When pressed for details, Glanz told Smolen: “I don’t know the specifics of the charge.”
“Sheriff you pled guilty to a wilful violation of the law, correct?” Smolen reminded him.
“Of this misdemeanor, yes.”
“When you took that plea deal, you swore under oath … Last week you told the jury, at least you insinuated, that you pled guilty because you couldn’t afford to hire a lawyer to defend you but that’s not what this says,” Smolen replied, holding up a copy of Glanz’s plea agreement, for which the former sheriff remains on probation.
Glanz agreed that the plea agreement states he pleaded guilty because he believed there was a chance he could be found guilty given the facts.
(There was no discussion of the second charge Glanz was indicted on, to which he pleaded no contest, involving his order to withhold an internal affairs report about reserve deputy Robert Bates.)
Glanz appeared eager to move on from the topic but the questions didn’t get any less pointed during his third day on the stand in federal court for a civil trial over Williams’ death.
Smolen referenced a deposition taken one year ago wherein Glanz said he didn’t have an issue with black inmates being called “negronoids” or “negroids.”
Glanz testified Monday he said in the deposition he didn’t have a problem with using the term for black inmates because the FBI used it to describe black people in the 60s or 70s.
Several cases brought by black former employees of Tulsa’s jail cost Tulsa County almost $1 million to defend and settle.
Federal court documents filed in the Northern District of Oklahoma filed in the discrimination cases show jail employees would mark an “N” or a “W” next to inmates’ names to indicate whether they were black or white.
Glanz and current Sheriff Vic Regalado are the defendants in a lawsuit alleging Williams’ Eighth and 14th amendment rights were violated when he was allowed to languish on his jail cell floor without eating or drinking for days before dying from complications of a broken neck. The jail’s former medical provider, Correctional Healthcare Companies Inc. (CHC), settled with Williams’ estate and is no longer a defendant.
Williams begged for help and repeatedly told jail staff he couldn’t move and that his neck was broken. However detention and medical staff concluded that Williams was faking paralysis, although testimony and records indicate they did no medical tests to confirm their assumption. Williams was placed in a cell equipped with video for 51 hours and never moved his feet on his own. He lacked motor control in his arms to grasp the trays of food jailers tossed into his cell and spilled the single cup of water he was given.
Williams’ siblings have attended most of the testimony, often wiping tears away as jurors view the silent, black and white video of their naked brother lying on a soiled “suicide blanket.”
On Monday, Williams’ sisters sat stone faced, glaring at Glanz as he repeatedly said he did all that he could as sheriff to provide good medical care to inmates.
“A lot of (deaths) occur because of their lifestyle and the condition that people find themselves in,” Glanz said.
Two medical experts have testified they believe Williams’ death could have easily been avoided if he received adequate medical care. Exactly how Williams broke his neck is unclear. An Owasso police officer slammed Williams to the floor by his head and neck in the jail’s booking area.
Another inmate said he believed Williams rammed his head into his cell door. However, Smolen has questioned why that claim did not surface until two months after Williams’ death, Oct. 27, 2011.
To prevail, however, Williams’ estate will need to show more than an isolated failure involved one inmate, no matter how horrific his last days appear on the video. Attorneys for the estate must prove the Sheriff’s Office was deliberately indifferent to Williams’ constitutional rights and that they were on notice of issues at the jail that were a direct cause of the deprivation of his rights.
In an effort to show a long-standing pattern that ended in Williams’ death and stretched beyond, Smolen pelted the sheriff with questions about why seven audits and reviews have found widespread failures in the agency he ran for seven terms.
Glanz’s second day of testimony Thursday was filled with instances in which the former sheriff was forced to confront the failings of his own agency, as documented by the slew of audits and reviews.
Glanz agreed that he could not name any policy or procedure that changed as a result of the the studies’ findings in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011. The audits found failures in nearly every area of the jail’s medical and mental health care, including a finding just weeks before Williams’ death of a “prevailing attitude among clinic staff of indifference.”
Smolen asked the sheriff if he had any evidence to refute a key statistic: Out of 64 deficiencies cited by government agencies and consultants since 2007, at least 38 were repeat violations. Glanz has repeatedly claimed that any time a deficiency was found by an review, the jail’s medical provider corrected the issue.
Glanz has implied that issues with the jail’s medical care were the fault of the health provider’ instead of his responsibility.
The Sheriff’s Office signed a contract with CHC to make sure the provider was responsible for the medical care in the jail, Glanz said Monday.
“They’re the ones who were actually responsible for the standards,” he said. Glanz noted he wanted the “best care for our inmates.”
However, Smolen has pointed to the Sheriff’s Office contract with its medical provider, the state Constitution and Glanz’s own prior statements in an effort to refute that claim.
A 2009 review of the jail’s medical care states overseeing medical care within the jail and ensuring quality care is provided is the responsibility of jail staff.
“The Sheriff/Director of Corrections/Jail Administrators of local detention centers whether he/she privatizes health services, are ultimately the person responsible for the delivery of health services,” consultant Betty Gondles’ report states.
Gondles’ report raised issues with the a lack of training and orientation for new health staff, nurses failing to document delivery of health services to inmates and delays in inmates receiving medications.
When Smolen reminded Glanz that Gondles’ report stated he was ultimately responsible, Glanz said that was “correct.”
The report noted many of the issues stemmed from a “lack of understanding of correctional health care issues by jail administration and contract oversight and monitoring of the private provider.” It recommended a bureau of health services to be established and a director of health services be hired to overlook the contract.
Once the measure to hire a contract monitor was taken, Gondles wrote she believed “many of the issues outlined in this report will be resolved.”
However, the Sheriff’s Office didn’t hire a medical professional to oversee the contract until 2014. When nurse Angela Mariani was hired to serve as a watchdog, she filed no reports in two years regarding inmates’ deaths and only one report about the company’s medical care.
Mariani was also married to Capt. Scott Dean, a shift captain in the jail supervising more than 100 detention officers, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Glanz testified Monday he didn’t recall the name of who was hired to oversee the contract and was “not familiar” with who her husband was.
Dr. Howard Roemer’s November 2011 report questions whether the deaths of five inmates in 2010 could have been prevented with better medical and mental health care.
Roemer, whose report took place one month after Williams died, was not hired as a result of Williams’ death in the jail, Glanz testified Monday. The Sheriff’s Office had already decided to bring Roemer in one month before Williams died.
Asked why Roemer didn’t review Williams’ death as part of his review, Glanz said he didn’t know. There was an OSBI investigation, as well as a thorough internal investigation, he said.
“(Williams) injured himself and no one discovered that injury and that’s what caused his death,” Glanz said.
Last week, Smolen asked Glanz whether he knew how many deaths occurred in the jail when the agency wasn’t following jail standards, policies or the recommendations of auditors, Glanz said he didn’t know.
One of the cases Roemer reviewed was Damien Tucker. On March 12, 2010, Tucker was having breathing difficulties in David L. Moss. He had been reporting chest pains that week, according to Roemer’s report.
Tucker went into cardiac arrest, but an ambulance wasn’t called until 42 minutes later, the report says. The outcome might not have differed if proper protocol would have been followed, but Tucker would have had better a chance at living, the audit states.
“Yes, if they would have acted more quickly, maybe he would have survived,” Glanz testified Monday.
Another case Roemer reviewed was Linda Henshaw. Henshaw, 51 died in Tulsa’s jail June 18, 2010, after going into cardiac arrest.
Sixteen days prior, she was discharged from a hospital and admitted into a jail medical unit.
It doesn’t appear medical staff was monitoring her blood sugar or blood pressure, which Henshaw’s hospital medical records noted as elevated, Roemer’s report states.
The antibiotics jail medical staff gave Henshaw were not recommended for a patient with her condition, and her low blood sugar was consistent with sepsis and/or worsening renal insufficiency making insulin last longer in her system, the report says.
“Mortality Review discusses some of these issues, but does not address inadequate system protocols, and realtime auditing of protocols, for treatment, monitoring, referral,” the audit states.
“Without such protocols, risk of similar episodes for other inmates, in the future, is quite high.”
Smolen asked Glanz whether the lack of medical staff monitoring Henshaw reminded him of Williams’ case after Williams began complaining of paralysis.
“This is a totally different case,” Glanz said of Henshaw.
An investigation by The Frontier found that at least 30 people have died in Tulsa’s jail or shortly after being transported to a hospital since 2006. Of those, Williams’ death is among 10 cases identified by medical experts as possibly or likely preventable if jail and medical staff followed jail standards, auditors’ recommendations and their own policies.
That number — representing one out of three inmate deaths in the last decade — is likely higher due to several factors. According to The Frontier’s investigation, some detention and medical staff had a history of falsifying medical records to cover up preventable deaths.
Jail staff were also cited in one audit with failure to conduct adequate death reviews. A former medical administrator has also stated that CHC staff sometimes pretended to revive dead inmates so that death could be pronounced outside the jail.
The reliability of Sheriff’s Office records — and its version of how inmates died — has been a recurring element during the trial’s eight days of testimony.
Billy McKelvey, a former Sheriff’s Office captain, testified Feb. 27 the agency had a history of faking and altering records.
McKelvey testified his investigation into Williams’ death found detention officer Carmelita Norris reported Williams was able to feed himself breakfast the morning he died. Video of Williams showed he was dead at the time her note indicated he was eating breakfast, Smolen said.
On Monday, Smolen asked Glanz about the Sheriff’s Office’s history of falsifying records. The former sheriff said in no circumstance should records ever be falsified.
Asked whether an employee should be fired for falsifying records, Glanz said it “depends on the situation” and a thorough investigation would need to be conducted first.
Elliott Williams trial coverage