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Family of deceased inmate Brandon Clay Dotson sues the Alabama prison system, alleging the removal of his heart

11 Dec 2023, Jail News, by

A lawsuit by a deceased inmate’s family accuses the Alabama prison system of removing the heart of inmate Brandon Clay Dotson.

Family of deceased inmate Brandon Clay Dotson sues the Alabama prison system, alleging the removal of his heart - Inmate Lookup

The Alabama prison system is under scrutiny as the family of Brandon Clay Dotson, a former inmate, files a lawsuit claiming that his body was returned to them without his heart. The circumstances surrounding Dotson’s death at Ventress Correctional Facility on November 16 remain unclear initially, with the nature of the charges he was serving time for undisclosed.

In response to the tragedy, Dotson’s family, consisting of his mother, daughter, and brother, initiated a federal lawsuit, alleging that they endured days of difficulty trying to obtain Dotson’s body.

The court documents, filed by Birmingham attorney Lauren Faraino, reveal that Dotson had sought assistance from prison officials, asserting that fellow inmates were harming him due to unresolved drug debts. He was found lifeless in his bed, and the lawsuit notes that “his body had already begun to stiffen.”

The legal action, filed on Thursday, indicates that Dotson’s body was handed over to the family on November 21, in a state of advanced decomposition. Fearing foul play, the family engaged pathologist Dr. Boris Datnow for a second autopsy, which revealed that Dotson did not have a heart. The lawsuit contends that, without requisite permission from his next of kin, the Alabama Department of Corrections removed and retained his heart.

A spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Corrections declined to comment on ongoing litigation, emphasizing that the department does not conduct autopsies. The funeral director informed the family that Dotson’s body arrived at the funeral home in a highly decomposed state.

The family is adamant about the immediate return of Dotson’s heart, yet no information has been provided regarding its whereabouts or the rationale behind its removal.

The lawsuit extends its allegations to the UAB Health System, claiming that UAB’s School of Medicine may have acquired Dotson’s heart. However, a spokesperson from UAB refuted these claims, asserting that records indicate UAB was not involved in the autopsy and distancing the institution from the matter.

Beyond the missing heart, the family’s legal filing implicates prison staff in negligence, contending that they failed to prevent the abuse Brandon Clay Dotson suffered and neglected to provide timely assistance. This accusation echoes similar claims in the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against the Alabama prison system, scheduled for trial in the upcoming fall.

The family asserts that correctional staff, despite having ample opportunities, did not intervene or heed warning signs and direct pleas for help, ultimately resulting in Dotson’s demise.

The lawsuit further claimed that the warden “expressed surprise” when Dotson’s brother called the jail to obtain his brother’s body, noting that many families do not gather their deceased loved ones’ remains and occasionally are not informed of an inmate’s passing.

In response to the family’s pursuit of justice, legal action is being taken against prison officials and UAB medicine. U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala has ordered an evidentiary hearing in the case, instructing defendants to preserve any tissue or organs relevant to the action and cease activities that may interfere with evidence.

As of now, the date for the hearing remains unspecified.