Nurse faces involuntary manslaughter charge for death of a prison inmate

On November 10, 2019, Elisa Serna, 24, an inmate at the Las Colinas Detention Facility in Santee, California said she was dizzy and nauseous and was moved to the medical observation unit, the DA’s office said in a press release.

The next day, November 11, nurse Danalee Pascua responded to Serna’s cell to take her vitals. “Serna fell in the defendant’s presence,” according to the press release. “The defendant failed to get Serna’s vitals, did not move Serna into a recovery position and left Serna on the ground in the cell. About an hour later, Pascua and deputies returned to Ms. Serna’s cell and began futile life-saving measures.”

Pascua, 36, returned to work on November 14, after her scheduled day off, and was placed on paid administrative assignment, according to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, while they investigated the incident. Pascua has had no patient contact since then, the sheriff’s department said.

Thursday, nearly the second anniversary of Serna’s death, the DA’s office charged Pascua and the sheriff’s department suspended her without pay.

“There is nothing more sacred than the sanctity of life and when that life is in the custody and care of government, it must be safeguarded and provided with the appropriate medical care. The evidence in the in-custody death of Elisa Serna demonstrates criminal negligence that contributed to her death,” DA Summer Stephan said in a statement.

“It is a heartbreaking case of failure to safeguard Elisa’s life by those who are charged with that responsibility,” the statement added. “Our analysis in this case as in any case follows the law, is independent and objective. In this particular incident, we can only file charges against the individuals involved if it is determined there is criminal negligence beyond a reasonable doubt. Other systems such as civil actions, administrative sanctions and citizen review boards provide wider remedies without the very high burden of proof of criminal accountability.”

According to the sheriff’s department, Pascua was hired in May 2017 as Detentions Registered Nurse assigned to the Las Colinas facility.

Pascua will be arraigned November 18. If convicted, she faces up to 4 years in prison. It is not clear if she has retained a lawyer. CNN has attempted to reach Pascua for comment but has not heard back.

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