BY MATTHEW ALBERT, ESQ.
A tragic and horrific case: My client India Cummings, in the throes of mental illness, clearly incapacitated and incapable of taking care of herself, was put in custody at the Erie County Holding Center on February 1st, 2016 after a series of irrational actions. She had originally called the police for help.
Despite frantic efforts by family members and others to have her transferred to a hospital where she can be stabilized, she was stashed away mysteriously in the Holding Center for a two and a half week period. On February 17, 2016, Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard states a “medical event happened,” and India was transported to Buffalo General Hospital.
Upon her admission, she had a broken arm, broken ribs, severe dehydration, a blood clot in her leg that would have required the amputation of her leg, and her kidneys were failing. She was brain dead and in cardiac arrest. Sheriff Howard fails to mention what conceivable medical event occurred that could have caused all those conditions simultaneously.
On February 21, 2016, Ms. Cummings remaining organs crashed, and she died. Howard and Acting Erie County District Attorney Mike Flaherty have done exactly what you would expect them to do when a young Black girl dies in such a tragic and suspicious manner in county care… absolutely nothing. Howard went on record today to say everything was all good, and he was more than satisfied with the care that India received.
India was the victim of a homicide… and this is why: When a clearly incapacitated individual is put into County custody, it is the County’s duty to care for her, as she cannot care for herself. Here, best case scenario, under County supervision, she was allowed to wither away and die in a two and a half week period, having nothing in her system upon her admission to the hospital. That conduct constitutes criminally negligent homicide.
Worst case scenario, she was beaten until there was nothing left and deprived of necessary food and water. That would be intentional or depraved indifference murder. Either way, there is criminal liability here. I hate to point out the elephant in the room, but if this was some white Amherst doctor’s kid who was in such a precarious mental state, he would have been hospitalized.
But, in this instance, Timothy Howard is, in his own words, “more than satisfied,” as to the care India received, meaning he’s probably more than satisfied with the result. India, your life mattered, and we will fight to obtain justice on your behalf. Their duck and cover, sweep under the rug routine isn’t going to work this time.
Matthew Albert is the attorney representing the family of India Cummings.