He was taken off life support, but his survivors say they were not consulted.
A federal inmate who suffered a heart attack at the Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles was taken off life support Monday without the consent of his family, according to government officials and relatives of the dead man. Guards found Moises A. Murillo, 69, on the floor of the detention facility Friday and took him to White Memorial Medical Center in East Los Angeles, where he was immediately placed on life support, according to the U.S. Marshals Service. He remained on life support until Monday, when doctors consulted with the marshal's office and decided to remove Murillo from the machines. His wife, who visited Murillo weekly at the detention center, was not told about his condition until a few hours after he was declared dead, when she received a call from authorities. U.S. marshals spokesman Jimell Griffin said it was possible that guards did not contact Murillo's relatives about his hospitalization "because it was late Friday by then, and over the weekend they didn't have time to get the [the family] notified. Our offices are closed on the weekends, and we only deal with emergencies as far as the after-hours stuff." Griffin later added that authorities had trouble reaching Murillo's wife because they didn't have a phone number for her. They found the number after his death by manually searching visitor logs at the jail. Murillo's family expressed outrage. They said Murillo's wife had visited dozens of times since his arrival at the detention center in July. The family said Catalina Hernandez had been looking for her husband since Sunday, when she showed up at the facility for her weekly visit. "She was told he wasn't there," said Ruby Murillo, the inmate's 31-year-old daughter. "The guard gave her a phone number to call. She called the number, and it just rang and rang." On Monday morning, Ruby Murillo called her father's federal public defender, but the attorney did not know where Murillo had been taken either. The family said the circumstances of his death were all the more troubling because he was incarcerated on an immigration violation, not for a more serious crime. Murillo was awaiting trial for allegedly reentering the United States illegally after being deported to Mexico in 1986. Illegal reentry is a federal crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison, followed by deportation. Murillo had lived in the United States since 1958, the family said, and labored for years as a farmworker in the Central Valley. He worked for the last 20 years at carwashes in the Los Angeles area. Officials at White Memorial said hospital policy allows doctors to unilaterally remove life support from patients who have no hope of recovery if family members cannot be located. "If we are aware that a patient has a family, we have to make every possible effort to contact the family," said hospital spokeswoman Beth Powis, who declined to speak specifically about the Murillo case because of confidentiality laws. Murillo fell ill suddenly Friday, Griffin said. Ruby Murillo said prison doctors discovered in July that her father had a blood clot near his heart and prescribed daily medication. She also said her father fell off his prison bunk bed in August and broke three ribs. Griffin initially said Tuesday that U.S. marshals were aware that Murillo had a preexisting heart condition when he was taken into custody. But in a later interview, he said there was no record of Murillo having any medical problems. Griffin said he did not know why guards did not tell Murillo's wife when she arrived at the detention facility Sunday that her husband was in the hospital. Officials tried to reach Murillo's family over the weekend, Griffin said, but could find no emergency contact information on file Friday. They began searching visitor logs but did not find the number until Monday, he said. By then, two doctors had determined that Murillo was brain dead and removed life support. Ruby Murillo identified her father's body Monday afternoon, she said. "He's been at the hospital since Friday," Ruby Murillo said. "They say they didn't have any information about his family, but then they call us on Monday, after he died. We didn't give no consent to take him off life support. We didn't even know he was at White Memorial." Ruby Murillo said the family would request that the Los Angeles County coroner's office conduct an autopsy. ### By Solomon Moore Times Staff Writer October 28, 2004 http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-immigrant28oct28,1,3723258,print.story?coll=la-headlines-california Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times