NO CRIMINAL CHARGES TO BE FILED IN DEATH OF WORK RELEASE INMATE
On Tuesday, July 31, 2018, the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s Office was advised that Laminika Dockery (36), of Elkhart, had suffered a medical emergency at the Elkhart County Community Corrections Work Release facility in Goshen, and died within a short time after being transported to Goshen Hospital by ambulance. The Elkhart County Coroner notified the Homicide Unit who began an investigation into the facts and circumstances of her death.
Homicide investigators conducted interviews with all custody staff, administration, and numerous inmates at the Work Release facility, and learned that Miss Dockery began complaining of stomach pain shortly after she entered the facility the evening of Wednesday, July 25, 2018. Miss Dockery had tested positive for drugs in her system at the time she initially appeared at the facility. Therefore, she was not allowed to leave for employment or allowed any other pass for a standard period of seven (7) days. During those days in the facility, Miss Dockery made multiple requests for medical assistance to various staff members. However, believing that Miss Dockery was suffering from symptoms of drug abuse withdrawal, neither custody staff, nor administrative staff, obtained medical attention for Miss Dockery.
The morning of her death, Miss Dockery was observed to be slow to respond and very weak. An ambulance was called at that time to tend to her needs and/or transport her for medical treatment. However, Miss Dockery became unresponsive in the ambulance, and passed away after emergency interventions at the hospital were unsuccessful.
An autopsy revealed that Miss Dockery died as a result of a bacterial infection that had been untreated. As the circumstances leading to her death took place while she was in the custody of Elkhart County Community Corrections, a department of county government, the Elkhart County Homicide Unit took responsibility for the investigation.
Prosecuting Attorney Vicki Becker reviewed the evidence in this case to determine if any formal charges might be appropriate under Indiana Criminal Law. Specifically considered was the criminal offense of Reckless Homicide. To file a formal charge of Reckless Homicide, the State must have evidence that a specific individual, or group of individuals, recklessly killed another person. That is, that the offender acted with “plain, conscious, and unjustifiable disregard of harm that might result [from their actions], and the disregard involves a substantial deviation from acceptable standards of conduct.” Indiana Code § 35-42-1-5 and Indiana Code § 35-41-2-2(c). Prosecutor Becker has concluded that there is insufficient evidence to establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that any staff aware of Miss Dockery’s symptoms had belief that harm, specifically, death, would result from her complaints of stomach pain. Accordingly, the State is unable to proceed with criminal charges in the case as there is insufficient evidence to satisfy the necessary elements of a criminal act.
In Indiana, a prosecuting attorney has authority to evaluate cases that may be actionable under its criminal laws. However, a prosecutor does not have authority to consider other actions under civil law. As no criminal laws appear to have been violated surrounding the circumstances of Miss Dockery’s death, no formal criminal charges will be filed.
Ms. Becker has provided information to both the Elkhart County Board of Commissioners and the Executive Committee of the Community Corrections Advisory Board regarding pertinent facts and circumstances of the death, and is committed to working with both agencies toward improving Elkhart County Community Corrections.
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Under Indiana law, all persons arrested for a criminal offense are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.