Jail Officials Refused To Give Him His Heart Transplant Medication. Days Later, He Was Dead.
A lawyer for the family speculates that jail officials balked at the medication's high price.
Dexter Barry was arrested last November following a dispute with a neighbor. Five days later, he was dead, after jail officials refused to give him necessary medication for his heart transplant.
According to The Tributary, a news outlet based in Jacksonville, Florida, Barry was arrested on November 18, after a neighbor reported him to the police for allegedly threatening to "beat him up" following an extended dispute over Wi-Fi. While the two never physically fought, Barry was nonetheless arrested on a simple assault charge.
During his time in police custody, Barry—who had received a heart transplant in October 2020—frequently insisted that he needed to take specific daily medications to prevent his body from rejecting his new heart. According to body camera footage of the incident, Barry told one police officer at least seven times that he needed this medication to survive.
When Barry appeared in court the morning after his arrest, court transcripts show that he once again requested access to his anti-rejection medication.
"I am on medication," Barry told Judge Gilbert Feltel. "I just had a heart transplant, and I haven't taken my medicine all day since I have been locked up, and I take rejection medicines for my heart so my heart won't reject it, and I'm almost two years out…. And the medicine that I am taking, it's like 30-day prescription that's like $2,400."
"OK. Here's what I will do, Mr. Dexter," replied Feltel. "I am going to simply set a bond in your case of 503 and add the additional condition of no violent victim contact." While Barry was released on November 20, his son and a lawyer for the family say that Barry never received his medication while in jail. By the time he was released, he had missed at least five doses.
Despite resuming his medication, Barry's health declined over the next few days, and he died on November 23, just three days after being released. A pathologist hired by Barry's family reported that his cause of death was his body's rejection of his heart transplant.
Andrew Bonderud, the family's lawyer, speculated that jail officials didn't obtain Barry's medication due to its cost. "Records from jail will likely show they made a note of it," Bonderud told The Tributary. "[The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office (JSO)] recognized it's an extremely expensive medication and how disgusting if it turns out that this was a business decision for the JSO, that they would rather not pay for the medication. They would rather risk death over a business decision. It's one of the most outrageous cases I've ever seen in this city of JSO misconduct."
While the pathologist declined to blame Barry's death solely on jail officials' refusal to obtain his necessary medication, it's clear that JSO officers were, at best, reckless with Barry's health—and at worst, contributed to his avoidable death.
"The police officer could've gone inside and got his medication," Barry's son told The Tributary. "This man is telling you, my heart needs those meds. A two-minute walk would've saved his life."