Sheriff answers questions under oath about death of inmate at Macomb County Jail
David Stojcevski died due to withdrawal from doctor-prescribed medications
Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham is answering questions under oath in the case of a Macomb County Jail inmate who died due to withdrawal from doctor-prescribed medications.
The Local 4 Defenders first revealed the video of David Stojcevski's last 10 days of life in 2015 after he was behind bars for not paying a traffic ticket.
Stojcevski, 32, was seen convulsing and struggling to breath on camera for several days inside his cell. He was never taken to the hospital. The Defenders investigation raised questions about the care of inmates and how a man under 24-hour video supervision could die.
Now, as part of a multimillion-dollar wrongful death lawsuit, Wickersham is finally giving answers.
The Defenders obtained a copy of Wickersham's sworn deposition: 108 pages that tell a story of guards who thought it was the medical staff's job to decide if an inmate needed to go to the hospital. The medical staff thought it was the guards' job to make sure inmates had enough food and water, Wickersham said.
Stojcevski lost more than 40 pounds in 17 days at the jail. He was badly dehydrated, and jail staff members watched him deteriorate day after day from a video monitor just a few feet from his cell.
"The sheriff was very forthright in his deposition," Stojcevski family attorney, Robert Ihrie, said. "We did learn some things that we thought were bothersome."
Ihrie questioned Wickersham under oath and said he was surprised to learn the sheriff rarely goes into the jail.
"He did testify and tell me that his office is within a relatively few feet of the jail but that he does not really enter into the jail more than about once a month," Ihrie said.
Wickersham said the buck stops with him when it comes to the well-being of inmates.
"The sheriff acknowledges that all of the medical care that occurs at the Macomb County Jail falls under the umbrella of his responsibility," Ihrie said.
But Ihrie said the deputy in charge of the jail has no medical experience.
"The sheriff did indicate that he has delegated the oversight of the medical care at the jail to Michelle Sandborn," Ihrie said. "Michelle Sandborn, according to the sheriff, has no medical training."
Stojcevski can be seen on camera naked and convulsing after days without eating. Guards who monitor the cameras 24/7 seemed to do little as Stojcevski lost more than 40 pounds. Wickersham said the guards were never trained.
"Nobody was trained to see if he was eating, to monitor what he was eating, to see if he was drinking, to monitor what he was drinking, and that's why the autopsy report said that he suffered from severe dehydration," Ihrie said. "In fact, the records that we show from observing the video indicate that out of 33 meals he was served in the high observation unit, he ate perhaps three of them, and in the last three days of his life, he had virtually no water."
Stojcevski died on his cell floor. After the death, Wickersham said he never asked to see the autopsy, but watched some of the video after the Local 4 Defenders aired it on the news.
"The law in these cases indicates that if something is so obvious that even a lay person can see that this person is suffering and needs help, it's not good enough to say, 'Well, we just made a mistake,'" Ihrie said.
Wickersham said in his deposition that after Stojcevski's death, guards were trained to better monitor food and water intake. Now they also have the authority to order an inmate to be sent to the hospital.
The last time he spoke publicly, Wickersham said there were no criminal charges brought against anyone in connection with Stojcevski's death, and he stood behind the men and women who work in the jail.
Stojcevski's family is still desperate for answers. His mother, Stephanie Stojcevski, went to the deposition to hear Wickersham's answers in person.
Family members said they're having a hard time finding closure in his death and they want the trial to force better treatment for inmates in the future nationwide.