Grand jury releases findings on the death of Eric Perez

Late last week, a West Palm Beach grand jury dealt a significant blow to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). It found a young man died under their watch due to “fundamentally inadequate” medical care. You may remember the disturbing story of Eric Perez, who died in custody after having been arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana while he was on probation.

While incarcerated, Perez reported to guards that he was hallucinating; he vomited and soiled himself in his cell but received no medical attention. It wasn’t until almost an hour after he stopped breathing that anyone from DJJ noticed, and by then it was too late. Apparently, the cause of death was a hemorrhage caused by head injuries. Earlier in the evening, guards joked and engaged in horseplay with Perez and other juvenile offenders while conducting a routine search. Perez was “roughly tossed in the air” and struck his head on the wall or celling. Perez developed painful headaches and loss of balance and struck his head again when he fell into the corner of a table.

Former Miami-Dade Superintendent Dale Dobuler was not surprised when he heard of this incident. Dobuler was brought in as superintendent after a very similar incident occurred in 2003. Dobuler has since left his position and notes that these types of occurrences will continue unless and until there is a change of attitude within the DJJ. He describes DJJ as being “great at firing people,” but unable to solve greater systemic problems.

Marijuana prohibition didn’t kill Mr. Perez. A brutal combination of head trauma and a lack of compassion and competence on the part of the Miami-Dade Juvenile Detention Center staff, guards, and supervisors did that. However, taking another approach to marijuana possession can prevent tragedies like this. MPP’s model bill to end marijuana prohibition and replace it with a system of regulated and taxed adult only use — along with our decriminalization bill — would give law enforcement other tools to use, besides juvenile incarceration, when dealing with a minor in possession of a small amount of marijuana.

Under the provisions of MPP’s tax-and-regulate bill, adults could use marijuana much like they are currently allowed to use alcohol. The bill provides for civil citations, drug education, and community service for minors found with marijuana, as does our decriminalization bill. These bills still penalize juveniles who use or possess marijuana, but they do so in a way that does not involve incarcerating youth. Surely, Mr. Perez would have gotten the medical attention he so desperately needed had he been cited and sent home to his family as opposed to jailed and ignored.

You can read The Miami Herald account of the grand jury report here. A copy of the full report can be found here.

7 thoughts on “Grand jury releases findings on the death of Eric Perez”

  1. Where are the murder chages against the police. Another example of how cannabis caused no harm but the cops kill. Can anyone explain how this is justified?

  2. Prison guards engaged in “horseplay” with inmates? Bullshit. They beat him during a “routine” search. Horseplay? Seriously? Shame. Why does society find this behavior acceptable? Why did the Grand Jury find the infraction was a lack of proper medical care – instead of improper handling of prison inmates – violation of fundemental human rights.

    The system is so broken that those with responsability of oversight can’t even get to the root of the problem here.

    Sickening. I feel for the parents and hope they file wrongful death civil suit – and part of the judgement should be to clean house of the administration of that detension center. Should also be removal of those members of the grand jury from ever making lame judgements like this again.

  3. Yes WHERE ARE THE MURDER CHARGES AND YOU FUC-ing morons wonder why we don’t respect you guys yea I’m talking you law enforcement creeps.
    How many of you went home after a shift and lit up ,, you won’t mention that , now will , I hope the poor guys soul weeks havoc on your conscious but then you have no conscious .
    The people are sick of this shit a little bit of pot this needs to end Z one more I hope you face a law suit the likes of which you have never seen .

  4. Politicians and prosecutors in Florida may have to work out a deal with their organize crime boss first to see if it is okay to file charges.

  5. The populous accepts this behavior because we do not live in a society of innocent until proven guilty anymore. When one hears of someone arrested the automatic thought is GUILTY.

    Someone needs to look to Canadas Supreme Court ruling regarding medical marijuana and Liberty. They ruled that not allowing a patient the right to use medical marijuana is a violation of that persons Canadian Constitutional rights to Liberty, just as the same way the US Government violates OUR Constitutional right to Liberty.

    Give me MY Liberty back, or Give Me Death!

  6. The war on drugs coupled with the war on terror has caused ever deepening war on the citizens of the US. Police are trained to treat every contact with the public as an investigation with a “bad guy” in every house or car. Marihuana laws are based on fear, lies, and racial bias.
    The militarization of police departments for real or imaginative enemies, coupled with marijuana laws that violate the very premises of freedom lead to situations inwhich those who are sworn to uphold the law somehow believe they are the law. After all are they not in a war zone and we the people the enemy.

  7. This crapp will continue to happen here in florida and every other state until sanity is restored along with our god given rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Athough there are 16 states that have changed the laws ass-backward florida will be one of the last to give it up. Entrenched red-neckedness exists in the whole stinking state, I am about to take my ass to a saner and safer state!

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