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Appeal filed in case of woman who died in Mini-Cassia jail after lawsuit dismissed

From the November crime report: Murder trial, police officer shot, rape charges series

BURLEY — The family of a woman who died in the Burley jail is appealing after their $25 million lawsuit was dismissed.

Stephanie Lynn King Eads was a 44-year-old mother of three whose arm was amputated following a work accident. The family’s lawsuit said jail staff mistook an infection related to her amputation for withdrawals from opioid drugs, and Eads would be alive if she was treated properly. She died on Jan. 24, 2020, after spending 14 days in the Mini-Cassia Criminal Justice Center.

Her family filed a lawsuit shortly after, but it was dismissed in federal court. Now, her attorney has filed an appeal to overturn the ruling with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, California.

Eads, who had part of her left hand amputated after it was caught in a grinder during a work accident, died while incarcerated, according to the lawsuit filed by Eads’ mother, Carol Cole, her estate and family.

“I was stunned,” said Lee Schlender, the attorney for Ead’s mother, Carol Cole.

Police and government officials “are very protected by the laws in our state,” Schlender said.

Qualified immunity is a defense that law enforcement and other government officials can use in response to lawsuits seeking monetary damages for alleged civil rights violations.

Schlender, who previously practiced medical law, came out of retirement to take the case.

“The real question to me is the legal morality of it. Should something like this happen,” he said.

Attorneys for the defendants, Blake G. Hall and Sam L. Angell, did not respond to requests for comment.

Eads had been on prescribed opioids at her time of arrest and, according to court records, the medical personnel who cared for her attributed many of her symptoms and complaints that she was not well to opioid withdrawal.

According to court documents, she died of a staphylococcus aureus sepsis and an inflammation of the inner lining of the heart’s chambers and valves.

“It is believed the autopsy revealed that Stephanie died from an untreated infection of her amputation stump and arm, which was ravaging her entire body and heart,” the lawsuit says. “The infection, if treated at an appropriate time, was treatable with medication and if needed, surgery.”

U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled from the bench and dismissed the case against Minidoka and Cassia counties, the jail and all the county employees, a doctor and a nurse in May. He dismissed the case against a physician’s assistant who cared for Eads in jail after further deliberation in July.

Winmill later dismissed the defendants’ requests for attorney fees but ordered Cole to pay the defendants $5,355.67 in disposition costs, according to court records.

The costs to file an appeal in the appellate court will “easily run $15,000 to $20,000,” Schlender said. “That’s why few people ever use that system. They don’t file appeals.”

A transcript obtained by the Times-News of the May hearing where most of the case was dismissed showed Winmill found that evidence did not support claims that the doctor, counties, county defendants, jail nurse and individual defendants were “deliberately indifferent to Ms. Eads’ medical condition,” the 66-page transcript reads.

“And if there is something they could have done different, it clearly was not so obviously wrong that they would not be protected by qualified immunity in any event,” the transcript said.

The court judgment for the physician’s assistant said there were no facts showing the physician’s assistant was “deliberately indifferent to Eads’ serious medical needs.”

Schlender said he filed his brief with the appellate court on Monday, and it generally takes a year for a case in that court to reach judgment.

American journalist Danny Fenster, who was freed after nearly six months in jail in military-ruled Myanmar, arrived Tuesday in the United States for an emotional reunion with his family.Fenster, who was sentenced last week to 11 years of hard labor, was handed over Monday to former U.S. diplomat Bill Richardson, who helped negotiate the release. He is one of more than 100 journalists, media officials or publishers who have been detained since the military ousted the elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in February.It's been a "long time coming, a moment I had been imagining so intensely for so long," a bearded and shaggy-haired Fenster said after landing in New York. "Surpasses everything I had imagined."Fenster's family awaited his arrival in the lobby of an airport hotel and rushed outside to greet him as the SUV carrying him approached. His mother, Rose, embraced him in a long tight hug the moment he stepped out of the vehicle."It's over. There's nothing to be anxious about anymore," Fenster said later in an interview. "Any bitter, ill will, regret, anger spilled out on the tarmac when I got on that plane."His wife, Julianna, who is still in Myanmar, is set to reunite with him in Detroit.Late Monday, as Fenster, 37, transited through Qatar, he told reporters that he was physically OK and had not been starved or beaten while in custody. While jailed, he had told his lawyer that he believed he had COVID-19, although prison authorities denied that.Fenster, the managing editor of online magazine Frontier Myanmar, was convicted Friday of spreading false or inflammatory information, contacting illegal organizations and violating visa regulations. Days before his conviction, he learned he had been charged with additional violations that put him at risk of a life sentence.SEE MORE: Myanmar Court Sentences U.S. Journalist To 11 Years In PrisonIt "feels great to get Danny back home. It's worth the effort, worth everything we did," said Richardson, a former governor of New Mexico and past ambassador to the United Nations who helped negotiate the release through his foundation.Fenster's mother described the ordeal as a "nightmare" and the family expressed relief that it was over.It "feels great, he's safe, that's all we want," his father, Buddy, said.Fenster in a knit hat that he said was a gift from another prisoner joked that the first thing he would do is get a shave and a haircut.He also said he hoped his plight would help focus world attention on the suffering of the people of Myanmar, where the army has responded brutally to peaceful protests that opposed the generals' seizure of power. Security forces have killed more than 1,200 civilians and arrested about 10,000 others, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. The takeover and the ensuing crackdown have drawn condemnation and sanctions from the United States and others.Richardson is known for negotiating the freedom of Americans detained in countries with which Washington has poor relations and when he visited Myanmar earlier this month, it raised hopes that he might win Fenster's release. But after that trip, he said his focus was on helping the Southeast Asian country manage the COVID-19 pandemic and speeding up the delivery of vaccines there and no mention of Fenster was made in his foundation's summary of the visit.In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Richardson said U.S. officials told him not to bring up Fester's case during his first meeting with military leaders. But he did so when he sensed there was an opportunity to negotiate the release during a private conversation with the commander-in-chief of the junta."Well, I raised it. I said, 'You should release him," Richardson explained, at which point talks deepened and he was told to return Monday for "a final negotiation."Later that day, according to Richardson's timeline, Fenster was free.SEE MORE: American Journalist Freed After Being Jailed In MyanmarRichardson said he made no promises in exchange for Fenster's freedom. "And they didn't ask me for anything," he said."I saw we had progress on the humanitarian issue, and I zeroed in on Danny and Aye Moe," Richardson said, referring to a former worker at his foundation who was also detained then released.The White House thanked Richardson for securing Fenster's release. "The United States welcomes the release of Danny Fenster from detention in Burma," White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said.Fenster had been in detention since his arrest at Yangon International Airport on May 24.The exact allegations against him were never clear, but much of the prosecution's case appeared to hinge on proving that he was employed by another online news site that was ordered closed this year during the

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