Nurse Acquitted in Jail Death of Pregnant Inmate

Danalee Pascua, a registered nurse at Las Colinas Detention Facility in Santee, California, was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter charges in the 2019 death of 24-year-old inmate Elisa Serna. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, a jury found Pascua not guilty after prosecutors argued she failed to properly evaluate and treat Serna, who complained of severe abdominal pain and vomiting for days leading up to her death.

The medical examiner attributed her passing to complications arising from chronic polysubstance abuse.

According to reports, Serna had told jail staff she was experiencing abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting over the course of three days before collapsing in her cell.

Serna, who was five weeks pregnant and, according to Prosecutors, was struggling with alcohol and drug withdrawals disclosed her heroin use to jail staff. However, when she collapsed in front of Nurse Danalee Pascua, vital signs weren’t assessed, and she was left unattended on the cell floor for approximately an hour. Upon Pascua’s return with deputies, efforts to revive Serna proved futile. Prosecutors alleged that Pascua did not take Serna’s vital signs or contact a doctor, even as Serna’s condition appeared to worsen. She was transported to a hospital where she died hours later.

In response, Pascua’s attorney, Alicia Freeze, argued that the nurse had only commenced her shift two hours prior to Serna’s death and was unaware of the severity of her condition, as reported by the Union-Tribune.

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Pascua was charged with involuntary manslaughter and faced up to three years in jail if convicted. However, after a two-week trial, jurors acquitted Pascua of the charges, finding that prosecutors had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Pascua’s actions—or lack thereof—caused Serna’s death. Pascua’s defense team argued that Serna’s condition was complex, and her death could not be blamed solely on Pascua’s medical care.

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Nurse Danalee Pascua and Dr. Friederike Von Lintig individually faced a charge of involuntary manslaughter related to the passing of Elisa Serna.

Though Pascua was cleared of criminal charges, the jail’s doctor, Dr. Friederike Von Lintig, still faces trial for involuntary manslaughter charges related to Serna’s death as the jury was not able to reach a verdict. 

According to the family’s lawsuit, Dr. Von Lintig failed to provide Serna proper medical care and evaluation as her condition deteriorated. 

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