Nurse acquitted of involuntary manslaughter in 2019 death of a 24-year-old California jail inmate

EL CAJON, California — A nurse at a California prison was found not guilty Friday of involuntary manslaughter in the death of an inmate who collapsed in her cell in November 2019. But jurors deadlocked on the charges against a prison doctor.

Danalee Pascua was acquitted in the death of 24-year-old Elisa Serna at the Las Colinas detention facility in the Santee suburb of San Diego, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

The newspaper said the Supreme Court panel in El Cajon deadlocked 9-3 for Dr.’s acquittal. Friederike Von Lintig. Prosecutors would not immediately say whether they would retry her on charges of involuntary manslaughter.

Serna, who was five weeks pregnant, was jailed five days before her death. She was suffering from alcohol and drug withdrawal symptoms and had told jail staff that she had used heroin hours before her arrest, prosecutors said.

Serna had been vomiting and had suffered multiple seizures in the 24 hours before her death, prosecutors said, but when she fainted in Pascua’s presence, the nurse was unable to check her vital signs and left her on the floor of the room for about an hour. her cell. returned with deputies to perform “futile life-saving measures.”

The medical examiner determined she died from complications of chronic “polydrug abuse.”

Pascua’s attorney, Alicia Freeze, said the nurse had only come on duty two hours before Serna’s death and was unaware of her serious problems, according to the Union-Tribune.

“Really, no one knew how sick this woman was,” Freeze said.

“We are disappointed that the trial resulted in the criminal acquittal of a nurse who witnessed our unconscious daughter having a seizure and then did nothing to prevent her death,” said a statement from Serna’s family, the Union-Tribune reported .

Serna’s family has sued the county for wrongful death.

“Both sides in the criminal case agreed on one thing: the staff and the prison system failed miserably to provide life-saving care to a 24-year-old woman who died needlessly on the floor of a prison cell,” the statement said. will fight for her until this injustice is corrected.”

Von Lintig was accused of failing to properly care for Serna, although the defense said she did not see Serna until the day of her death and that another doctor had treated her. Prosecutors said the doctor refused to go to Serna’s cell to check on her after reports that the inmate had suffered a seizure.