Drug Policy

Jonathan Magbie


Good for Colbert King.  The Washington Post columnist won't let the 2004 case of Jonathan Magbie go away.  Magbie was a 27-year-old quadriplegic sentenced by Washington, D.C. Superior Court Jduge Juditch E. Retchin to 10 days in jail for marijuana possession.  It was Magbie's first offense.  Retchin was well aware of Magbie's condition, that he needed a ventilator to breathe, and that D.C.'s jails weren't equipped to handle him.  Even prosecutors in the case asked her not to send him to jail.  She did anyway.  Once he was admitted, the jail's assistant medical director called Retchin, and begged her to allow Magbie to be sent to a hospital instead.  She refused.  Magbie soon fell into respiratory distress, and was sent to an emergency room.  An incompetent doctor then sent him right back to the jail, where he died hours later.

King describes Magbie's last moments:

Magbie's last night at the D.C. jail could be likened to a night in Guantanamo: He was confined in a room with no means to communicate. Conditions worsened when he was returned [from] the hospital. Carbon dioxide was building up in his bloodstream because, without a ventilator, he wasn't breathing deeply enough.

Magbie, fatigued from fighting to stay alive, drew smaller and smaller breaths and his heart finally gave out.

Judge Retchin is still serving on the D.C. Superior Court.  This case should be her legacy.

MORE:  Last week, Magbie's mother settled her lawsuit with the city for a "substantial" amount of money.