Once a week, inmate Jamie Hein receives two daily drug infusions for Hereditary Angioedema that costs Nevada taxpayers $4,000 per treatment. The disease causes a swelling of the hands, face, feet, genitals, abdomen or throat. State taxpayers pay for each infusion. The yearly bill amounts to over $416,000.
Hereditary Angioedema affects one in 50,000 people. Hein was diagnosed with the disease before committing a second degree murder in 2007. The disease became more acute when she began serving time.
The cost of a single infusion to treat for Hereditary Angioedema is more than the annual medical expenses for Nevada inmates. Hein is one of 13,000 people currently incarcerated in the state. Her treatments amounts to one percent of the yearly $41 million budget allocated for prisoner health.
Her grandmother suffered from Hereditary Angioedema and died in her 30s when a swelling a throat swelling occurred. If a similar throat swelling occurred with Hein, prison staff would have to rush her University Medical Center, a hospital 10 miles away for the property treatment.
There are days when Hereditary Angioedema causes her hands swell to the size of surgical gloves. Other days, the swelling occurs in her intestines giving Hein the appearance of being pregnant. A missing protein in her blood causes the outbreaks. The daily infusions help to replace the missing protein.
Her family wants Hein released to their care. She is currently incarcerated at the Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center in North Las Vegas. A release would require a pardon by Governor Sandoval.
Hein was denied a pardon during a November hearing before the Nevada Board of Pardons Commissioners. She has served six years of a 10 year minimum sentence. During her time in jail, Hein has been a model prisoner.
Kristina Wildeveld, Hein’s defense attorney, said her client was essentially given a death sentence. Hereditary Angioedema worsens with stress. There could be no greater stress than being locked up inside a prison. The $4,000 taxpayer supported payment for daily drug infusions to control Hereditary Angioedema has kept Hein alive.
In April 2002, a then 21 year old Hein moved from California to live with her aunt in Las Vegas. The aunt had cohabitated with Timothy Herman, a man who had committed numerous acts of domestic violence against her aunt. The aunt assured the Hein’s family that Herman had moved out of state. Days later, he returned.
Witnesses reported that Herman punched the 18-year-old Hein for no reason. He again punched her when Hein suggested he was high on meth. After Herman beat up one of her roommates, Hein confided with her father, Jim Hein. He said that Herman would eventually kill her. The father suggested that his daughter should get a bat, dog, gun, or a knife to fend off further assaults.
On the evening of April 8, 2002, Hein went upstairs and entered her aunt’s bedroom with a knife. There, she found Herman asleep on a bed. Herman woke up. He saw the knife and attacked her. When Herman grabbed Hein by the hair, she swung the knife slitting his aorta.
Prosecutors believed Hein planned the confrontation. Even if she did not intend to murder Herman, she despised the man and wanted him to leave. Entering the bedroom with a knife created a hostile situation.
Hein testified she never planned on killing Herman. When the confrontation with Herman began, two teens living in the house raced to room and help beat up the victim. The two teens accepted voluntary manslaughter charges. Hein rejected a similar plea. Prosecutors pegged Hein as a ringleader intent on killing Herman.
Before sentencing, prosecutors offered Hein a deal. In exchange for a second-degree murder and perjury charges, Hein would give up her right to an appeal. She would accept a 10 to 25 year jail sentence. Taking the deal meant getting out of prison in her 30s. Rejecting the officer equaled 20 years to life. Hein accepted the deal.
Kathy Herman, the mother of Timothy Herman, developed a relationship with Hein. In 2010, Mrs. Herman wrote a letter to the pardon board expressing that she had forgiven Hein for the murder of her son. Mrs. Herman wrote that Hein acted in self-defense and hoped for her early release. The pardon board members who consisted of Governor Sandoval, Nevada Supreme Court justices, and the attorney general denied the pardon.
With her next pardon hearing three years away, Hein’s family has turned to the Nevada state legislature for assistance. Assemblyman Harvey Munford, D-Clark County, is writing legislation that allows Category A offenders suffering from severe medical ailments and who do not pose a risk to their communities, to be place under house arrest.
While Hein continues to serve jail time, her daily protein treatments continue. The Department of Corrections has asked for an additional $2.2 million increase to administer medical treatments such as hers. Only a handful of inmates have had catastrophic medical treatments over the last two years. Hein’s $4,000 cost for two daily drug infusions will continue to be supported by state taxpayers while the Nevada inmate remains incarcerated.
By Brian T. Yates