Cause of death revealed for woman who died in Rikers cell after she couldn’t pay $500 bail

NEW YORK — The cause of death for a a 27-year-old woman who died in a Rikers Island jail cell was revealed on Tuesday.

Layleen Cubilette-Polanco

Layleen Cubilette-Polanco died from natural causes, according to Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson. She suffered from a medical condition that gave her seizures.

“Genetic testing on this decedent showed a biological mutation in the CANNA1H gene which is the likely cause of her epilepsy; variants in this gene are associated with seizures," Sampson said.

After Cubilette-Polanco's June 7 death, activists wanted to know why she ended up at Rikers jail for misdemeanor assault and drug possession charges and why was she left alone despite a medical condition that gave her seizures.

Her bail had been set at $500 following her April arrest, but she could not afford that, her family said.

Family members suspect inadequate care could have contributed to Cubilette-Polanco's death, David Shanies, a lawyer representing the family, previously said.

Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society issued a statement on the release of Cubilette-Polanco's cause of death:

“Layleen Polanco’s death is an absolute tragedy, and her passing further underscores the dangers of solitary confinement, which isolates already medically fragile people from observation and care. We demand utmost transparency and rigor in the investigation of the correctional and medical policies and decisions surrounding her treatment and her placement in isolation.Lastly, Layleen’s passing demands that Mayor Bill de Blasio prioritize the immediate closing of Rikers Island. He must also end his Administration’s punitive solitary confinement policy, which has already claimed the lives of too many New Yorkers.”

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