No Jail Time in Farmworker's Death

Wednesday, Mar 9, 2011  |  Updated 11:28 AM PDT
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No Jail Time in Farmworker's Death

Damian Trujillo

“El Tricolor" flies next to the red, white and blue on the fields.

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A San Joaquin County judge accepted a plea deal Wednesday for two farm supervisors charged in the death of a pregnant worker.

Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, 17, suffered heat stroke and died in May 2008.

Merlyn Calderon, a UFW National Vice President, told NBC Bay Area that this is a sad day for farmworkers.

Prosecutors said the supervisors denied Vasquez Jimenez shade and water, as she pruned grapes for nine hours in 100-degree heat. The supervisors were initially charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Earlier this week and prior to Wednesday's hearing, protesters held a vigil outside the Stockton courthouse and demanded jail time for defendants Maria De Angeles Los Colunga and Elisa Armenta.

Instead, De Los Angeles Colunga pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of failing to provide shade and must serve 40 hours of community service. Armenta pleaded guilty to a felony county of failing to follow safety regulations and must do 480 hours of community service.

United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez issued the following statement following the ruling:          

The life of Maria Isavel is not worth very much in the courts of justice of California. The government failed Maria Isavel at least four times—and it failed to protect the other 14 farm workers who died from the heat since Gov. Schwarzenegger issued the state heat regulation in 2005.

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