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Nurse found not guilty of falsifying records after man’s death in county jail

The family of Darryl Becton with Arlington NAACP President Julius “JD” Spain, Sr. (staff photo)

A man who was charged in connection to the death of Darryl Becton in Arlington County jail in 2020 has been found not guilty.

Antoine Smith was charged in September 2021 with the misdemeanor of falsifying a patient record.

Smith worked for Corizon Correctional Health, the jail-based medical provider at the time of Becton’s death, which has been sued multiple times across the nation for inmate deaths allegedly connected to inadequate care.

When reached by phone, Smith’s attorney declined to comment on the outcome of the case.

The charge was levied against Smith as part of a year-long investigation into the circumstances surrounding Becton’s death at the Arlington County Detention Facility.

In the wake of his death, the Arlington branch of the NAACP called for an independent investigation. The jail, meanwhile, cut ties with Corizon and updated its protocols.

One month later, Becton’s family filed a $10-million wrongful death lawsuit against Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur, the elected official who oversees the jail and the Sheriff’s Office, as well as Corizon and four medical staffers, including Smith.

The suit alleges that medical staff did not treat and properly monitor Becton’s drug withdrawal symptoms or high blood pressure, despite being aware of his condition and the risks associated with it.

The lawyer for the case did not return a request for comment on how the not-guilty verdict for Smith impacts the lawsuit.

Becton was the fifth person — and the fourth Black man — to die in the facility while in custody in five years, according to the Arlington branch of the NAACP. Since then, the number of people who have died in the detention facility has risen to seven, prompting the Arlington County Board to pledge greater oversight over how the jail is managed.

For the NAACP, the charges against Smith were never its focus.

“Even had Mr. Smith been found guilty of that charge, it would not have answered the central question: why did Mr. Becton die?” Arlington NAACP President Julius “JD” Spain told ARLnow. “The NAACP remains committed to helping our entire community understand how this avoidable tragedy happened, so we can work together to ensure it never happens again.

“We will continue to advocate for a better public safety system that reduces the reliance on prisons as means of solving social problems, and advances effective law enforcement,” Spain continued.

The verdict does raise a host of questions about who supervises jail-based healthcare providers and their employees, and where was that supervisor when Becton died, Spain said.

“So, finally, why did it take this unnecessary and tragic death, seven in seven years, to ultimately cause the Sheriff’s office to find a new contractor?” Spain said. “To date, no one has been held accountable. Is it a toxic work environment, fear of retaliation, or improper management of personnel? Every day that passes without an answer, trust and confidence in leaders and the justice system erode.”

The jail has taken some corrective steps to improve its treatment of inmates, including hiring a quality assurance manager, planning to buy a new medical tracking device and updating health check protocols.

These actions led Virginia’s Jail Review Committee, part of the Board of Local and Regional Jails, to conclude that “no further measures are necessary” and close its investigation into the Arlington jail last month. Its investigation found evidence suggesting the jail had broken state regulations in Becton’s death, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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