Former George County jail nurse Carmon Brannan says “fear, coercion and pressure” from her court-appointed attorneys prompted her to enter a manslaughter guilty plea in the death of an insulin-dependent jail detainee. She wants a judge to allow her to withdraw the plea.
“Though I entered a plea, I wanted to go to trial at all times and absolutely DID NOT want to plead guilty,” she said in affidavit filed in the case. “The plea was not made voluntarily and it was not made intelligently.”
A hearing on the matter is set Monday before Special Judge Richard McKenzie.
In May, Brannan, 53, entered an Alford plea, meaning she did not admit guilt but agreed there was enough evidence to convict her in the Sept. 24, 2014, death of William Joel Dixon. Lucedale police had arrested Dixon after they found him asleep in his car with drugs inside.
Brannan said she felt “forced” to enter the plea because her attorneys, Calvin Taylor and David Futch, had not “prepared for trial, none of my witnesses had been subpoenaed, not even an expert witness.”
In addition, she said, her attorneys had told her she’d face 20 years in prison because she “had no chance of winning” the case. That pressure coupled with her “fear,” she said, prompted her to react “emotionally rather than rationally and intelligently” the day the of the plea.
The attorneys have been subpoenaed to testify at Brannan’s hearing next week.
Brannan’s new attorney, Mary Lee Holmes, also said there are several defenses Brannan could make at trial, such as she had no “standing orders” to provide insulin treatment to Dixon, she had never received any insulin to give Dixon, and no one had told her his medication had been brought to the jail.
Assistant District Attorney Cherie Wade countered Brannan’s claims about her plea, noting the judge had explained to Brannan at length the nature of the charge against her, her rights, the consequences of her plea and the rights she was waiving as result of her plea. In addition, Wade said in a motion, Brannan reviewed, answered and signed a plea petition confirming her answers in court.
In addition, District Attorney Tony Lawrence explained the facts of the case supporting the charge and plea and the judge agreed the evidence was enough to convict Brannan.
Just days before the former jail nurse’s June sentencing, Brannan hired Holmes to represent her, though she had told a judge she was indigent and unable to pay for her own lawyer. As a result, the judge has ordered her to pay all of the expenses of court-appointed attorneys, court costs and other fees once the total amount is determined.
“Faking” an illness?
Brannan was a registered nurse at the jail when she failed to provide “sufficient medical treatment” to Dixon between Sept. 17 and the day of his death on Sept. 24, 2014, authorities said. Jailers found Dixon dead in his cell after going days without food or insulin, records say.
After the arrest, one of Dixon’s relatives called the jail to tell officials he was an insulin-dependent diabetic. A relative even brought some insulin to the jail staff to ensure Dixon got the medication he needed to live. Authorities also went back to Dixon's car to retrieve additional insulin and handed it over to jail staffers to administer.
Over the course of Dixon's time in the jail, Brannan tested his blood sugar only once, District Attorney Tony Lawrence said, though experts said a blood-sugar check on an insulin-dependent diabetic should be done at least twice a day.
Brannan did not provide insulin to Dixon during his jail stay despite his repeated requests and his pleas for help as his symptoms worsened, authorities said.
Brannan, according to witness statements, repeatedly brushed off Dixon's complaints of feeling ill, saying he was "faking" and was likely having drug withdrawals. The former jail nurse never administered any insulin to Dixon and failed to offer assistance even after he was weak and unable to eat for days because he had been deprived of insulin.
In addition, Brannan never created a medical file on Dixon, Lawrence said, though jail staff repeatedly asked her to check on him.
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 allowed to resign after Dixon's death.
A jail nurse later found Dixon's insulin in a box of medications that were supposed to be discarded because they weren't needed. All of Dixon's insulin sat in the box meant for disposal during his jail stay.