Former George County jail nurse Carmon Brannan said Monday she always planned to go to trial for manslaughter in the death of an insulin-dependent jail detainee because “I am innocent.”
And though Brannan entered a plea in May, Special Judge Richard McKenzie on Monday agreed to allow Brannan to withdraw the Alford plea she entered in the case. In the Alford plea, Brannan did not admit guilt but agreed there was enough evidence to convict her in the Sept. 24, 2014, death of William Joel Dixon.
The judge issued Monday’s ruling after Brannan testified, saying she never planned to enter a plea in the case but did so out of fear because her court-appointed attorneys had not subpoenaed anyone to testify on her behalf. She said the day she entered the plea was the day she thought the manslaughter trial would begin in the death of Dixon.
“What scared me was going to jail for 20 years,” she testified. “I’m innocent. I did not want to plead guilty. My lawyers told me I would not win if we went to trial. I want my day in court.”
Hardly met with attorneys
Brannan argued Monday she was not properly represented because she only met three or four times with her court-appointed attorney, Calvin Taylor, over the nearly two years he represented her.
In addition, she said, Taylor hired a medical expert to do a report on her behalf based on the evidence available, but the doctor never spoke to her before he produced what Taylor described as a “bad” report.
In fact, the report her own medical expert prepared, Taylor said, was worse than the one the medical expert for the prosecutor hired.
Taylor met with Brannan and her family after the report came in, to advise she enter a plea because he didn’t feel she could win at trial. Taylor said Brannan was aware she was going to enter a plea in May and he had advised her to get character statements and a letter from the bonding company saying she could remain out of jail on bond pending her sentencing.
Despite Brannan’s testimony to the contrary, Taylor said Brannan knew she was entering a plea in May. He said she became concerned after he told her District Attorney Tony Lawrence would like to stick to his recommendation of a 20-year prison sentence, with 10 years to serve and 10 years on post-release supervision.
A new attorney
Brannan hired a new attorney, Mary Lee Holmes, the same week she was scheduled for sentencing.
Holmes, and another attorney speaking on Brannan’s behalf, questioned whether Brannan received adequate representation, noting the attorney had not met much with Brannan, for example, or gone to the jail to question people there for evidence.
In addition, the defense attorneys questioned why the former defense attorney never thought it would be beneficial for Brannan to speak with the medical expert who was doing a report on her.
Lawrence and Assistant District Attorney Cherie Wade pointed out Brannan admitted her guilt under oath in open court, signed a plea petition admitting her guilt a second time and agreed she aware of exactly what she was doing the day she entered the Alford plea.
Despite that and other arguments the judge acknowledged were valid, he said Brannan had a right to go to trial.
George County jailers found Dixon’s body in his jail cell on Sept. 24, 2014, after he’d gone days without food or insulin.
At the time of his death, Dixon was in jail on two counts of child endangerment and one count of possession of a controlled substance, DUI other, driving with an expired tag, and driving without insurance.
Brannan was the registered nurse at the jail when she failed what the indictment describes as “sufficient medical treatment” to Dixon while jailed between Sept. 17 and the day of his Sept. 24, 2014.
According to the evidence presented in court, Brannan was the registered nurse in the jail at the time of Dixon’s stay, but did not provide insulin to him despite his repeated requests.
Brannan, witnesses said, brushed off Dixon’s complaints of feeling ill, saying he was “faking” and likely suffering from drug withdrawals since he had admitted to using meth.
The ex-jail nurse, Lawrence said, never administered insulin to Dixon during his stay and failed to offer any assistance to him even after jailers encouraged her to do so as he became weak and unable to eat.
Brannan’s new trial date is set in September.