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Max Gracia died in Orange County jail after being bitten by a police dog. His family wants answers.



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Regardless of what Gracia may have done, his medical care was constitutionally guaranteed under the Eighth Amendment, which bans cruel and unusual punishment, says Jacqueline Azis, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

"Jails and prisons must provide adequate medical care," she says. "It's unconstitutional to deny care to those in custody. It's important to know the right to medical care belongs to everyone in custody, from the most heinous crimes to those presumed innocent, as was the case with Max Gracia. There's always comments after these deaths about how 'they shouldn't have been running,' or 'they shouldn't have been doing that,' but what they're accused of doing is not important. What is important is the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment."

Max Gracia's mother says she knows he wasn't the perfect kid.

He had gotten in trouble with the law before and gone to jail on various charges including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, battery and a previous accusation of robbery at the same Circle K (though those charges were later dismissed). But Willine Gracia says that doesn't justify how her son was treated before his death.

"I want people to know that there were other times my son got arrested, and he was known in jail for having a prayer meeting every night for the cellmates on his floor," she says. "He used to call me and give me a list of inmate names for me to call their families because they don't have money on the phone. I'd put extra money in his account so he could buy himself food to keep up with his medication and he would buy enough stuff to feed everyone in his pod. That's just the type of person he was."

Willine Gracia remembers her son loved his three dogs and attended church faithfully. Max Gracia found laughter in everything and was the life of the party. The void left in her life has left her with sleeping problems, anxiety and panic attacks.

"I have to live day-by-day, because there's only so much I can take," she says. "For the first year, I couldn't even look at my son's picture. ... He was never found guilty and he was screaming saying he needed help. Why was he not heard? Police, doctors take oaths to protect and serve, and that's not what was done here. They killed my son."

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