Mistrial declared after jury deadlocks in jail nurse’s manslaughter case

Carmon Brannan, is on trial on a charge of manslaughter in the death of William Joel Dixon.
Carmon Brannan, is on trial on a charge of manslaughter in the death of William Joel Dixon. Sun Herald File

A judge declared a mistrial Monday in the manslaughter trial of a former George County jail nurse accused of causing the death of an insulin-dependent jail detainee.

Special Judge Richard McKenzie made the ruling after jurors said they were in a 11-1 deadlock after more than 5 hours of deliberating. The judge sent them back into deliberations several times, but jurors said the one dissenter refused to “listen much less deliberate.”

Another juror sent the judge a note saying the lone holdout on the jury said she “made up her mind Friday” and had not listened to any of the testimony since then.

The jury did not indicate whether the vote was to acquit or convict Carmon Brannan in the Sept. 24, 2014, death of detainee William Joel Dixon.

Brannan was the lone registered nurse at the jail when she is accused of causing Dixon’s death when she withheld the insulin he needed to live.

On a public Facebook page called “True Justice for Joel” a commenter said she was one of the 12 jurors.

“I can promise you 11 of us felt she was GUILTY WITH OUT A REASONABLE DOUBT !!!! I was part of the jury and I’m so sorry to the family i can’t even express how sick i am over this ... the other 10 expressed how sorry they were also and we tried so hard to convince the other juror.”

She ‘ignored’ inmate’s condition

In closing arguments earlier Monday, District Attorney Tony Lawrence and Assistant District Attorney Cherie Wade reminded jurors of the testimony of correctional officials and a licensed practical nurse at the jail who said Brannan repeatedly “ignored” Dixon’s declining medical condition despite their pleas for her to check on him.

Other corrections officers also testified they had seen Brannan withhold medication from other inmates.

Others said Brannan was generally “rude” to those she treated and repeatedly ignored requests for medical attention.

Over the course of his jail stay, prosecutors said, Brannan repeatedly chalked Dixon’s condition up to drug withdrawals because he had admitted smoking up to 2-grams of meth a day for the six months leading up to his arrest in Lucedale on Sept. 17, 2014.

On the morning Dixon death, Brannan claims Dixon was conscious and “sitting up” when she checked on him in his jail cell. She made those claims despite the testimony of jailers and others who repeatedly said Dixon had been unable to eat for days before his death.

A video the day of his death shows Brannan’s check on him amounted to her peaking through the window of Dixon’s jail cell for less than two seconds.

“This defendant ignored officers nine different times when they told her about Dixon’s worsening condition,” Lawrence said, though Brannan was required by law to provide sufficient medical care to him.

Prosecutors also reminded jurors Dixon’s mother had brought a batch of insulin to the jail for him. A Lucedale police officer also fetched the insulin from Dixon’s car and brought it back to the jail.

Defense speaks up

Defense attorneys Jim Dukes and Bud Holmes argued Dixon had not been caring for himself and had forgone any appointments with his doctor in the year before his death.

Also, the defense argued Dixon did not care for himself and had failed to go to the doctor who treated his diabetes for a year. Instead, they said, Dixon treated himself with over-the-counter medication.

They also pointed out Dixon later had a back injury and was taking painkillers to treat that condition as well.

Despite the defense arguments, prosecutors pointed out Dixon had no drugs in his system at the time of his death and the cause of death was due to complications from diabetes.

Brannan, however, repeatedly told jails officials Dixon was “faking” his illness.

At the time of his death, Dixon was in jail on two counts of child endangerment and one count of possession of controlled substance; DUI other; driving with an expired tag; and driving without insurance.

‘He never asked for it’

Defense attorneys argue Brannan at all times provided sufficient medical care to Dixon. They also noted that during another jail stay Dixon had refused insulin treatment.

Dixon, they added, never asked for insulin and others, including Brannan, had access to the insulin he needed to live.

“Her never asked for it (insulin),” defense attorney Mary Holmes said. “You can’t force it if he doesn’t ask for it.”

Brannan also declined to send Dixon to a doctor or a hospital for treatment.

“Thirteen times, this defendant denied sending Joel Dixon to a doctor or a hospital,” Lawrence said.

Brannan was one of two nurses who worked at the jail at the time, charged with providing adequate medical care to a typical inmate population of about 280 state inmates and about 100 county inmates.

Lawrence asked to set up a new trial date as soon as possible. A conference call to set up the trial is scheduled for Jan. 24.

If convicted in a new trial, Brannan could go to prison for up to 20 years.

Margaret Baker: 228-896-0538, @Margar45

Related stories from Biloxi Sun Herald