Death happened last year, lawsuit ongoing.
County sued over death of pregnant inmate Wednesday, November 17, 2010
By Rich Lord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A 27-year-old pregnant woman's journey through the criminal justice system ended in her death from pneumonia following ineffective treatment in the Allegheny County Jail, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court Tuesday.
Amy Lynn Gillespie, of Cuddy and, later, Knoxville, was jailed in December for violating the terms of her work release by becoming pregnant. Initially found to be in good health, according to the complaint filed by Downtown attorney Robert N. Peirce, she was complaining by the end of that month of difficulty breathing and discharge from her lungs.
Treated for viral influenza and denied diagnostic tests, according to the complaint, she worsened and then was transferred on Jan. 1 to UPMC Mercy. There she was found to have bacterial pneumonia, too far advanced to be successfully treated with antibiotics. She and the fetus, then 18 weeks along, died Jan. 13.
Mr. Peirce filed the civil rights lawsuit for the deceased's mother, Luann Gillespie Shultz.
Ms. Gillespie's legal troubles started with a pair of shoplifting convictions in 2004. In 2007, she was caught taking shampoo and steak from the Bridgeville Giant Eagle, and told the arresting officer that she did it because she was hungry. That year she was also caught stealing two $55 silver rings from Macy's, Downtown.
In 2008, she was picked up for soliciting men on Brownsville Road. Put on probation, she was referred to the Program for Reintegration Development and Empowerment of Exploited Individuals, which offers counseling and services to women arrested for prostitution.
She didn't comply with her probation terms and was sentenced to six to 12 months of jail or alternative housing in February 2009. Mr. Peirce said she would have been released around the beginning of this year had she not become pregnant, been jailed, and gotten sick. He said UPMC Mercy did not appear to be liable.
Named in the lawsuit are the county; jail Warden Ramon C. Rustin; the nonprofit Allegheny Correctional Health Services Inc., which provides medical care in the jail; its president, Dana Phillips; and several unnamed jail personnel.
Mr. Rustin and a county spokeswoman said they could not comment on litigation.
ACHS was created by the Allegheny County Health Department in 2000 to eliminate the contracting of jail health care to private firms. It has been sued six times in federal court since the beginning of 2009. Attorney Stanley A. Winikoff, who represents ACHS, said that's a modest number of lawsuits given that some 25,000 people spend time in the jail annually.
The jail's adequacy for women, notably those who are pregnant, has been criticized by the human rights organization New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice.
Ms. Gillespie's story is "clearly a reproductive injustice, and it's a human rights violation," said LaTasha Mayes, executive director of New Voices Pittsburgh. She questioned whether a transfer to jail was an appropriate response to pregnancy.
"Ms. Gillespie should still be alive," she said.
Source: County sued over death of pregnant inmate
New claims in lawsuit over pregnant inmate's death
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Attorneys representing the estate of a woman who died while pregnant in the Allegheny County Jail in January 2010 have asked a federal judge to allow them to add new allegations to their lawsuit.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone denied a motion by the county and former Warden Ramon Rustin to dismiss the complaint filed by the mother of Amy Lynn Gillespie, of Cuddy, who died of pneumonia at age 27 days after being moved from the jail to UPMC Mercy.
Attorneys Robert N. Peirce III and Elmer R. Keach III then asked Judge Cercone for permission to file an amended complaint that details the days before Ms. Gillespie's death. Judge Cercone has not yet ruled on the request.
The amended complaint said that during December 2009, Ms. Gillespie's cell block had "little or no heat" and inmates "could see their breath."
"The walls and the ceiling were leaking water and there was a strong smell of sewage coming from [Ms. Gillespie's] sink," it said. "There was black mold growing on and around her toilet and wall."
The lawsuit, filed in 2010, claims that Ms. Gillespie's death was caused by indifference to her medical condition, a misdiagnosis and budget-driven delays in sending her to a hospital.
A county spokeswoman declined comment because the matter is in litigation.
First published on December 20, 2011 at 1:18 am