The Snohomish County medical examiner ruled the death was caused by bronchial asthma; the county sheriff’s office then conducted an investigation and forwarded its findings to the prosecutor’s office with “no criminal referral,” meaning it was not recommending charges. Then in January, the Snohomish County prosecutor’s office confirmed that it would not file criminal charges against anyone in Saffioti’s death.
The National Institute of Corrections also launched a review of Snohomish County’s jails, which have had eight in-custody deaths since 2010, two of which have led to lawsuits over medical care. The institute described a disorganized medical system, and when they requested the medical protocols, “they did not seem to be available” and “it was not clear if they existed.” The review made multiple recommendations for improvement, including: clear medical protocols, weekly testing of emergency procedures, and a clear review process after the death of an inmate.
Snow adds that the painful irony about the Saffioti case is that, just one year after Michael’s death, marijuana was legalized for medical and recreational use in the state of Washington, and under the revised laws, the young man would not have been charged. The fact that Saffioti’s mother brought him to the police station that night thinking she was teaching her son to do the right thing, she adds, only makes the case more heartbreaking.
Snow, who says the lawsuit will be officially filed at the start of December, can only imagine what the ordeal was like for Saffioti. “The thing I can’t get away from is the utter panic he must have felt when he realized that they were not listening to him, that they were not going to take him seriously.”
See also: article on this case from the Winter 2013 edition of the magazine.