The family of a Jacksonville man says he died in November after going two days in the Duval County jail without the medication he needed to survive.
Dexter Barry was 54 years old. Police video shows him repeatedly telling the arresting officer he needs his medication because he was a heart transplant recipient.
The incident, which was first reported by The Tributary, raises questions about how the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office provides healthcare to inmates. Barry’s attorney and his family claim his death is the result of a systemic problem.
“Never in a million years would have thought we wouldn’t lose our dad, let alone in the way that he passed,” said Barry’s daughter Janelle King.
Barry leaves behind a wife and four children, including King and Dexter Barry Jr.
“My dad was like my best friend my whole life,” said Dexter Barry Jr.
Police footage shows Dexter Barry in the back of a police car on Nov. 18, 2022, telling the officer he has to have his medication.
“I take rejection medicine for my heart transplant,” he said. “I can’t miss no doses.”
Patients with organ transplants take daily medication to keep their bodies from rejecting the transplant. According to Duke Health, if anti-rejection medications are stopped, rejection can occur quickly and can result in a permanent decline in heart function and death.
“My medicine costs $2,000. I go to Mayo for my medicine,” Barry is heard saying in the JSO video.
He explained he waited more than two years to get the heart transplant. The officer tells him he can get his meds at the jail.
“If something happens to me because of my heart, there’s going to be a problem,” Barry said.
“Just make sure you tell them,” the officer said.
“Yeah, I’m going to tell them,” Barry responded.
Attorney Andrew Bonderud, who represents Barry’s family, says a report from 2022 showed Barry was doing well after the transplant a few years prior.
“After the heart transplant, [Barry was] doing great as recently as the spring of 2022. He had a checkup, where they actually biopsied the transplanted heart. And it was a healthy, stable heart,” Bonderud said. “He was taking his medication like he should three times a day. And then November rolls around, and he had had a dispute with a neighbor.”
That’s when Barry was arrested on a charge of simple assault. He and his neighbor had a dispute over the WiFi.
“I didn’t put my hands on him,” Barry said in the police car.
“You’re confusing assault for battery, the officer responded. “Battery is physical contact. Assault is a threat by words to cause harm, causing fear.”
Barry was booked into jail and appeared before a judge the following day. The court transcript shows he told the judge he hadn’t taken his medication all day.
The judge responded, “OK” and set a bond of $503.
Jail records show Barry bonded out Sunday, Nov. 20, after being arrested on Friday, Nov. 18.
“He didn’t sound like himself that Monday when I spoke to him,” said Dexter Barry Jr. “You could hear a shortness of breath, and his words were jumbled like his body was starting to shut down.”
He says his dad went to the hospital, but three days later, he died at UF Health. Barry’s death certificate shows his heart stopped, but an autopsy was not performed.
The family hired their own pathologist to conduct a report. The pathologist wrote the cause of death was cardiac arrest, but said, “I do not feel qualified to give a professional opinion as to the effect of discontinuation of the anti-immune therapy to this patient for 2-3 days.”
Bonderud said JSO hasn’t provided Barry’s medical records.
“The Sheriff’s Office has stonewalled me,” he said.
“He’s not the first, and this is why I feel like we’re fighting so hard for this to get the justice it deserves because he needs to be the last,” Dexter Jr. said.
If convicted, Barry could have faced a maximum of 60 days in jail. Bonderud says the family plans to file a lawsuit.
A spokesperson from JSO said they are unable to speak in depth about the incident because of pending litigation.
A spokesperson from the American Board of Trial Advocates says any suggestion the first appearance judge acted improperly is unfair.
They noted that jailers are constitutionally required to give an inmate their required medication and that the judge lowered Barry’s bond to make it easier for him to get out of jail.