WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, ALBarksdale remains in coma, cause still unknown

Barksdale remains in coma, cause still unknown

Time continues to tick away and there are still no answers as to why and when Farron Barksdale became so sick.

The convicted killer remains in a coma, one week after he was transferred into a state prison. A multi-agency task force is investigating what happened to him.

Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely allowed the WAFF News 48 cameras inside the cell where Barksdale was housed while in the county jail. It was clean and air conditioned, unlike his cell at Kilby correctional facility, which isn't air conditioned.

Blakely insists whatever happened to Barksdale happened after he left the North Alabama jail cell.

He is in a Montgomery hospital in critical condition and on life support. Barksdale was found unresponsive in his cell at Kilby on Saturday.

There are conflicting reports about what put Barksdale in the hospital. A spokesman for the state prison system says they believe Barksdale is suffering from some sort of internal infection. He continues to run a high fever and has a high white blood cell count. Barksdale's family says he has injuries to his head and pelvis. But the prison spokesman says Barksdale doesn't have any broken bones.

Both the state and family members agree that the prisoner's temperature reached at least 103.

Who's to blame? Some point to Alabama's prison system. But authorities with the system say the heat is a factor.          

The WAFF 48 investigators talked to a lawyer who has dealt with similar cases as well as a Huntsville psychologist. Both say the state of Alabama will have to answer for their inmate's condition.

"We don't know what the problem is, but whatever the problem is the state is responsible for taking care of the people in their custody because they can't go anywhere else," said attorney Mark McDaniel.

Dr. Frankie Preston agrees with McDaniel. Farron Barksdale was most likely on psychiatric medication due to his mental illness, which was an issue brought up a week ago when he pled guilty to the shooting deaths of two Athens police officers.    

"Without the medication sometimes they can become unmanageable and yet the medication in and of itself sometimes has untoward side effects," said Preston. Those effects, Preston says, are often heat-related.

He says that could be the case in Barksdale's situation.

"Some of the side effects we would typically see with heat are dehydration and of course dehydration can affect multiple organ systems and create shutdowns that cause medical crises," explained Preston.

This could explain a portion of the state's latest information released about Barksdale temperature. 

"If it's heat-related, the state has an obligation not to let people die in their care and if it gets too hot and this person's on medication they should've known that," said McDaniel.    

McDaniel believes a civil lawsuit will eventually be filed on Barksdale's behalf.       

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