The office of the Bronx’s District Attorney completed its investigation into the arguably preventable death of Layleen Polanco, a 27-year-old Afro-Latina trans woman who was found dead in her Rikers Island jail cell almost one year ago.
There are a lot of troubling details in the case, like the fact that Polanco, a beloved member of New York City’s ballroom scene and member of the House of Xtravaganza, had been punished with solitary confinement despite pre-existing health conditions—not to mention the fact that she wouldn’t have been in that cell at all had she not been slapped with a $500 cash bail that she couldn’t afford. But despite all of that seemingly obvious moral and ethical wrongdoing, Bronx D. A. Darcel Clark found “no criminality” in Polanco’s death, ABC News reports.
“After an in-depth investigation by my Public Integrity Bureau, we have concluded that we would be unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any individual committed any crime associated with Ms. Polanco’s demise,” said Clark in a statement that her office released on Friday. “We will not be seeking any criminal charges related to this devastating event.”
According to Clark’s statement, Polanco’s sole cause of death was the epileptic seizure she suffered on June 7 of last year. Not the person who decided to punish a woman who was known to suffer from epilepsy with solitary confinement. Not the corrections officer who failed to check on her for close to an hour at the time of her death despite the fact that she’d been placed on suicide watch, which requires check-ins every 15 minutes per the Department of Correction’s suicide prevention policy. Not the cash bail system that kept her incarcerated on misdemeanor charges for weeks without a trial. Her epilepsy. That was it, the D. A.’s office maintains.
As if to add insult to injury, the office deadnames Polanco in the statement it released on Friday. That context, it seems, was important to them. If only the context leading up to Polanco’s death were deemed similarly valuable.