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Woman who gave birth in jail sues King County

12:08 PM PDT on Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Associated Press

SEATTLE - A mentally troubled woman who gave birth in a jail cell nearly 10 years ago has filed a lawsuit accusing King County of negligence and failing to provide proper medical care or staff training.

According to her lawsuit for unspecified damages, filed last week in King County Superior Court, Imka Pope, 36, told guards she was going into labor but did not receive medical attention until after the child was born.

Pope was arrested for trespassing, but the charge was dropped after she was found mentally incompetent to stand trial, said her attorney in the lawsuit.

The statute of limitations for filing the lawsuit would normally have been three years, but her mental illness was such that she was unable to recognize that she had been wronged, her attorney, Christopher R. Carney, said. Her condition has improved recently with counseling, he said.

"She has a constitutional right to have adequate medical care given to her while in custody," Carney said. "I don't see how it could be much clearer that she didn't get that."

Defendants include the county; Reed Holtgeerts, county director of detention; his predecessor, Arthur Wallenstein, now a corrections official in Maryland; and 14 other jail staff members.

A county corrections spokesman said that he had not seen a copy of the suit and could not comment on pending litigation.

Arrested for sleeping in a transit bus shelter, Pope was incoherent, didn't know her name, talked to herself and wouldn't leave her cell when she was booked into jail on Nov. 15, 1997, as "Lisa Enigma," Carney wrote in the lawsuit.

Six days later, according to the lawsuit, she told guards she was pregnant and going into labor but was given medical attention only after staff heard the cries of her newborn son in her cell.

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