Nov 7, 2018

“I don’t feel that justice was served here.”

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Newsday reported the bittersweet verdict for a daughter seeking answers and justice for their mother’s preventable death.  The nursing home resident died after her ventilator became disconnected at A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility nursing home.  The state attorney general’s office had alleged registered nurses Sijimole Reji and Annieamma Augustine, along with certified nurse aide Martine Morland ignored the patient’s ventilators alarms for nine minutes and 24 seconds.  Carmela Contrera was suffocating as the trio chatted at a nurse’s station less than 40 feet away from her room at the end of an overnight shift in December 2015.  She could not recover after such a delay. The woman died the next day while hospitalized.

The victim’s daughter said justice wasn’t served after a jury convicted three health care workers of only misdemeanors, a day after acquitting them of negligently causing the patient’s death. “My mother lost her life,” said Andrea Contrera, expressing disgust while leaving the courtroom after jurors delivered the second half of a two-part verdict. “I don’t feel that justice was served here.”

Defense attorneys contended their clients didn’t give emergency care to Contrera because an alarm never sounded throughout the unit to warn that the life support machine the patient needed to breathe was disconnected. They also told jurors evidence showed a respiratory therapist had “faked checking” ventilators and alarms and falsified reports, and claimed facility management set up employees to fail by understaffing the unit. 

In a partial verdict Monday, the jury acquitted the defendants of felony charges of endangering the welfare of a vulnerable elderly person and criminally negligent homicide. On a fifth day of deliberations, they convicted each defendant of a misdemeanor count of willful violation of public health laws — meaning they neglected Contrera by failing to provide timely and adequate treatment. The jury also convicted Morland of a felony charge of falsifying business records while acquitting her of another count of the same offense.



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