Longshoreman with schizophrenia sues Santa Rita Jail after attempted suicide

A man who suffers from schizophrenia is suing Santa Rita Jail saying that he wouldn't have tried to die by suicide if he had received the proper medication.

Julian Martinez, a former longshoreman and father of three who also suffers from bipolar disorder and addiction, filed a federal suit against Alameda County, Wellpath – the company that provides medical care at the jail – and the city of Fremont, as officers are accused of not properly notifying the jail of his condition. 

"This  is a systemic issue at Santa Rita Jail, that they routinely failed to provide what the Constitution requires when it comes to medical care in the jail," said Oakland attorney Ty Clarke. "Julian and his family were asking for help every day since they got there and they weren't provided it."

This case illuminates "yet another failure of defendants Alameda County and Wellpath to provide anything resembling adequate medical care to detainees at Santa Rita Jail,"  Clarke and colleagues Patrick Buelna and Adante Pointer wrote in their March 29 suit filed in U.S. District Court. 

The Alameda County Sheriff's Office and Wellpath did not respond Monday for comment. A Fremont spokeswoman said the city does not comment on litigation. 

As he and his wife, Alisha Martinez, tell the story, Julian Martinez was arrested on Dec. 12, 2023, by Fremont police. 

Officers were there to arrest someone on a report of a stolen car, but ended up taking Martinez into custody because he had an outstanding warrant after missing a court date for a prior instance of illegally possessing a gun, his wife said. 

That day, Alisha Martinez, who is a cardiology supervisor at Sutter Health, told the arresting officers by phone that her husband was diagnosed with schizophrenia and that he needed to take his medication. 

She told KTVU that her husband takes Seroquel, which is an antipsychotic that helps regulate mood and sleep. 

But the Fremont police "apparently failed to communicate with Santa Rita Jail staff" to let them know, the suit states. 

In an interview, Alisha Martinez did say that she initially got a call from a nurse at Santa Rita Jail inquiring about her husband's medication. But the nurse told her that her husband had to ask for the medication himself, which he did. 

Julian Martinez suffers from schizophrenia. Photo: Family 

"And then they said that he was a liar, that he wasn't taking that medication, that was the wrong dose," Alisha Martinez said, despite her checking the dosage in her husband's MyChart account. "They didn't believe him. And so nobody helped him." 

She said without the medication, her husband gets "terrible nightmares" and has psychotic episodes. 

According to the suit, Martinez's condition got worse and he began experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Six days after arriving at jail, Martinez tried to hang himself.

A fellow incarcerated person found him and alerted authorities, Alisha Martinez said. 

Martinez's case is unfortunately far from unique, Clarke pointed out. There are dozens of cases where Santa Rita Jail and Wellpath employees have failed to provide the proper medical care to those in custody. 

One of the most egregious cases was that of Maurice Monk of Oakland, whose sisters pleaded with the jail to provide their brother with Haldol, as he, too, suffered from schizophrenia.

When the sisters finally were able to push through the bureaucracy to get Monk the medication he needed, it was too late. 

He had been languishing, motionless and unresponsive, in his cell for three or so days and was found dead in November 2021. 

As of February 2022, Santa Rita jail was placed under a court-ordered consent decree, meaning that everyone booked into Santa Rita Jail is supposed to undergo a mental health evaluation to determine their proper course of care. 

The suit states that Martinez was never moved to a medical observation unit or provided psychiatric supervision. 

In an interview, Kara Janssen, whose law firm was successfully granted the consent decree, said she has seen several instances of delays where incarcerated people weren't able to have their medications verified in a timely manner, which is why she advocates having a psychiatrist work at the jail more quickly to write new prescriptions, if necessary.

However, Janssen said that it appears as though people are getting initial mental health evaluations as a result of the consent decree. 

She also said that she is aware of Martinez's issues as the family reached out to her firm, but she is barred from speaking about it because of privacy issues. 

Today, Julian Martinez is on probation for his past offense, graduated from an addiction program and is living with his family in Tracy. 

Alisha Martinez said her family is speaking out now because other people have experienced similar issues, and it hurts to be ignored. 

"He's a father. He's a person, not just an inmate," she said. "We were asking for help. It's not the first time that it's happened there. It happened to other people too. It's not just my husband."

If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, call 988 for help. 

Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at lisa.fernandez@fox.com or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez