Protesters demand re-vote on multi-million dollar wrongful-death settlement


by Catherine Holland

Video report by Tess Rafols

Posted on November 1, 2012 at 7:01 AM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 7 at 1:13 AM

Should the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors re-vote on the $3.25 million proposed settlement in the Deborah Braillard wrongful-death lawsuit?

PHOENIX -- People angry with the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors over its decision to send a multi-million dollar wrongful death lawsuit back to a jury camped out in downtown Phoenix overnight in protest.

With a 2-2 vote, the board on Wednesday did not approve a proposed $3.25 million settlement in the 2005 death of Deborah Braillard. The 46-year-old died of complications of diabetes while in the custody of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

Braillard's family sued, claiming MCSO knew about her condition, but failed to get her medical help when she became incoherent while in custody. According to the suit, jail employees noted her symptoms, but attributed them to drug withdrawal.

About three weeks into the trial, the county, which has already spent a reported $2.2 million defending itself, agreed in principle to a settlement deal, but the Board of Supervisors had to approve it.

Many thought it was a done deal, but when it came time to vote two board members rejected the proposed settlement and a third abstained. That resulted in a tied vote.

Without approval for that settlement, the trial will resume and a jury will decide if MCSO was indeed responsible for Braillard's death and what damages, if any, should be awarded to her family.

Members of an organization called Citizens for a Better Arizona, the same group that interrupted an Oct. 18 Board of Supervisors meeting during which members were scheduled to vote on the Braillard settlement, were not happy with the tie vote.

Amid speeches and singing, Chairman Max Wilson abruptly ended that Oct. 18 meeting, tabling the vote.

"He chose to walk out of a meeting. That's just shameful, leaving that settlement on the table," CBA president Randy Parraz said that day. "That's not our fault, that's his. I can't force him to stay there," Parraz said.

The vote was rescheduled, but the outcome was not what CBA had hoped for.

Between 15 and 20 CBA members camped outside the Board of Supervisors' office overnight. They want the board to vote on the settlement again -- and approve it.

"Basically, we want them to do what they were supposed to do, and that is approve that settlement," CBA member Paul Castaneda said Wednesday morning. "Now is the time to settle that and not let it go back to court where it could cost taxpayers a lot more money."

As a group, Citizens for a Better Arizona is no fan of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was named in the Braillard lawsuit, and has been outspoken in its criticism.

"CBA will continue to support efforts aimed at limiting the influence of extreme and divisive politicians like Sheriff Arpaio …," Parraz wrote on the organization's website. One of the group's main projects is called "Holding Sheriff Joe Accountable."