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Woman suing after giving birth in Denver jail cell

The suit alleges jail and medical staff knew she was in labor for hours, but ignored her until she ended up giving birth on her own.

DENVER — A woman has filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Denver, Denver Health Medical Center and various staff members after her attorney said she gave birth to her son in a jail cell without medical assistance.

Diana Sanchez gave birth to her son in a cell at Denver County Jail on July 31, 2018 10:44 a.m. after Denver Health nurses and jail staff knew she'd been in active labor for hours, the 47-page suit alleges.

Silent video (below) shows Sanchez in her cell that morning, approaching the cell door multiple times before ultimately laying down and giving birth to her baby on the jail bunk, according to the suit.

"She had been having contractions for hours, her water had broken," said Mari Newman, an attorney with Kilmer Lane and Newman Law Firm who filed the suit on behalf of Sanchez. "She [was] passing blood. It was time for her to go to the hospital."

"Instead of taking her to the hospital, the jail and nursing staff decided that they were just gonna wait and see and instead do their administrative booking," she added.

Daria Serna, spokesperson for the Denver Sheriff Department, said an investigation revealed deputy sheriffs "took the appropriate actions under the circumstances and followed the relevant policies and procedures."

"After learning that Ms. Sanchez gave birth in a cell at the Denver County Jail on July 31, 2018, Sheriff [Patrick] Firman immediately ordered Internal Affairs to conduct a review to understand what happened. Denver Health was also asked to review this incident," she wrote in an emailed statement.

Serna said as a result of the investigation, policy was "clarified" to mandate that ambulances be called when an inmate is in labor.

"If a woman is in labor for hours and hours and hours and ends up giving birth all by herself in a cold dirty jail cell, and that's following policy? Something is profoundly wrong," Newman said.

Serna said Sanchez was housed in a dedicated medical unit and "under the care of Denver health professionals at the time she gave birth."

"We empathize with anyone who is in jail while pregnant including Ms. Sanchez," Serna said.

Sanchez and her attorney are suing for monetary damages for "violations of her constitutional rights" and to force changes in jail policy. 

"Even if it turns out that Ms. Sanchez's baby is fine, that does not mean that Denver and Denver Health somehow did nothing wrong," Newman said.

View the case in its entirety below. (Can't see it? Click/tap here.)

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