The mother of a Baltimore girl who was shot in the head by a juvenile offender wearing an ankle monitor while under house arrest is suing the state supplier of monitoring anklets, claiming the company was aware that its technology had flaws.
Raven Wyatt was 5 years old when she was struck by a bullet in July 2009 that was a result of a juvenile offender escaping from his home while under GPS surveillance.
The event left Raven with permanent brain damage.
"She's functional, she can sort of talk, she can play," said W. Charles Bailey Jr., the family's lawyer. "But she has speech difficulties. She has problems with the movement of her limbs. She can't walk or play normally."
Bailey estimates it will cost between $6.2 million and $7.1 million to provide care for Raven for the rest of her life.
Now, Raven's mother, Danielle Brooks, is suing iSECUREtrac, the Nebraska-based company that serves as Maryland's supplier of GPS tracking devices, in federal court for failing to "provide accurate and continuous real-time violation alerts of juveniles who had violated the terms and conditions of home detention orders," according to the lawsuit.
The family seeks $10 million for each of the seven claims against the company.
The shooter, Lamont Davis, was under house arrest at the time for robbery and assault charges. According to the lawsuit, Davis was a member of the Crip street gang, and had a long criminal history that began at the age of 10.
He was monitored with a state-issued iSECUREtrac anklet, but there is evidence that he had previously left home while wearing the tracker, according to court documents.
Maryland's Department of Juvenile Services uses the technology as an alternative to detention as part of its treatment for juvenile offenders.
"There appears to be some flaws in the system, and it appears that some folks were aware of this," said Bailey. "Even though they were aware of it, steps weren't taken and warrants weren't made and dangerous juveniles were able to leave the house."
But the crux of the suit is about safety, said Bailey.
"You can't be selling a product that is supposed to be saving people money if a little girl is going to get shot," he said.
In 2010, Davis was found guilty of first degree attempted murder in Raven's shooting, second degree attempted murder, the use of a handgun in committing a crime and possession of a firearm by minor. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
The reliability of Davis' GPS records was a point of confusion for prosecutors and defense counsel during his trial. Bailey said both attorneys were thrown off by the tracker software's short range of motion.
"There would be all these monitoring violations once you got past 150 feet," he said.
"This is a big part of the problem. Was he or wasn't he there?" said Bailey. "When you have a juvenile [under GPS monitoring], its one thing if it's Martha Stewart, its holy other if it's a kid with a gun."
Bailey said he had spoken with an expert who informed him that the the iSECUREtrac system gave a large number of false positives across the board, showing that some offenders were in their homes when they were not, and vice versa.
But according to Donald DeVore, secretary of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services in 2009, after an internal review of the iSECURE system, no major faults were found.
"I think that some people unfortunately have the impression that if you put somebody on this system, that it's immediately going to result in an immediate response," he said. "We did develop certain safeguards to put in place to be able to respond at a rate much quicker than most other departments in the U.S.
"It really is not intended to be a program in and of itself," DeVore said of the ankle monitoring system. "It's intended to be part of a level of supervision. It has to be supported with community service, visitation and court appearances."
But DeVore said it was possible for a juvenile to evade the system.
"When a juvenile goes off the grid, so to speak, depending on the level of service you're receiving, it will notify you that the juvenile has stepped outside of their exclusionary zone, he said. But "some systems can be tampered with."
The Department of Juvenile Services has had a contract with iSECUREtrac since August 2008 for GPS equipment and technical assistance, Juvenile Services spokesman Jay Cleary said in a statement. "GPS is a tool the department's community detention officers use for youth the court has ordered live in the community with electronic monitoring," said Cleary.
But Cleary would not comment on the technical aspects of the iSECURE system.
Representatives from the GPS tracking company could not be reached for comment.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court on June 11. The state of Maryland is not a defendant.