A man who waited 12 years for a heart transplant has died after he was denied medication during a stint in jail following a dispute with a neighbour.
Dexter Barry, 54, met dozens of doctors, underwent intricate procedures and even moved to different states in his efforts to improve his health, according to The Tributary.
In 2020, he received a new heart, allowing him to return to his normal life. But last year, he was arrested on a misdemeanour charge, leading to him spending two days in jail without his medication. His body then appeared to reject his new heart.
Mr Barry’s neighbour called the emergency services in November, claiming that the 54-year-old had said he would beat him up following a dispute regarding WiFi access which had lasted weeks. No fight ever took place, but Mr Barry was arrested on a charge of simple assault.
Mr Barry told a Jacksonville, Florida officer as many as seven times that he needed his medication every day, according to the outlet, citing body cam footage.
The following morning, he told the judge in his case the same thing, a court transcript shows.
“I am on medication,” Mr Barry said. “I just had a heart transplant, and I haven’t taken my medicine all day since I have been locked up, and I take rejection medicines for my heart so my heart won’t reject it, and I’m almost two years out.”
“Okay,” the judge said.
Mr Barry died on 23 November last year. A lawyer for his family and his son told The Tributary that he never got access to his medication.
“Records from jail will likely show they made a note of it,” attorney Andrew Bonderud told the outlet. “JSO recognized it’s an extremely expensive medication and how disgusting if it turns out that this was a business decision for the JSO, that they would rather not pay for the medication. They would rather risk death over a business decision. It’s one of the most outrageous cases I’ve ever seen in this city of JSO misconduct.”
Both the lawyer and the family argues the issue that led to Mr Barry’s death are systemic, according to News4Jax.
The body cam footage shows Mr Barry on 18 November last year speaking to an officer.
“My medicine costs $2,000. I go to Mayo for my medicine,” he said.
The officer said he’d be able to get his medication at the jail.
“If something happens to me because of my heart, there’s going to be a problem,” Mr Barry said.
“Just make sure you tell them,” the officer replied.
“Yeah, I’m going to tell them,” Mr Barry said.
Mr Bonderud told News4Jax that Mr Barry was “doing great as recently as the spring of 2022. He had a checkup, where they actually biopsied the transplanted heart. And it was a healthy, stable heart”.
“He was taking his medication like he should three times a day. And then November rolls around, and he had had a dispute with a neighbour,” he added.
“I didn’t put my hands on him,” Mr Barry said about the dispute to the officer.
“You’re confusing assault for battery, the officer replied. “Battery is physical contact. Assault is a threat by words to cause harm, causing fear.”
After the bond was set at $503, Mr Barry left the jail on Sunday 20 November.
His son, Dexter Barry Jr, told News4Jax : “He didn’t sound like himself that Monday when I spoke to him”.
“You could hear a shortness of breath, and his words were jumbled like his body was starting to shut down,” he added, saying that his father passed away three days after arriving at the hospital at UF Health.
If he had been convicted, Mr Barry would have faced 60 days in jail at most.
Mr Bonderud said they’re planning to file a lawsuit. Jail officials are constitutionally required to give inmates their needed medication, an American Board of Trial Advocates spokesperson told the local outlet, adding that the judge lowered the bail amount to make it easier for Mr Barry to get out of jail.
When reached by The Independent, a spokesperson for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said: “Due to pending litigation, the agency would not be able to comment on the matter at this time.”