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LifeSouth to destroy most blood in Perry Co. Courthouse controversy

Published: Oct. 20, 2015 at 7:46 PM CDT|Updated: Nov. 19, 2015 at 8:46 PM CST
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PERRY CO., AL (WSFA) - LifeSouth Community Blood Centers says it has discarded most of the blood it collected during a drive at the Perry County Courthouse on Sept. 17. The announcement comes after the Southern Poverty Law Center filed an ethics complaint against a judge who helped the cause by allegedly threatening defendants who couldn't pay court fees with jail time if they didn't go outside and donate.

Sharon Carpenter, a spokeswoman for LifeSouth, said the organization believed Judge Marvin Wiggins, "had the best intentions: helping the county's citizens and community's blood needs," but said of the 47 units collected, 41 were destroyed. The reason? LifeSouth said it could not verify that the donors gave voluntarily.

"To be considered voluntary, donors must donate blood for the right, altruistic reasons," Carpenter said. "Blood donors shouldn't donate based on pressure, coercion or because of an incentive. The safety of the blood supply requires that donors give voluntarily, without undue pressure or misplaced motivation."

In total, 54 people registered outside the courthouse to give blood, Carpenter said. One of the donors complained and, "we immediately initiated an investigation and the blood collected was quarantined," Carpenter added.

"If you do not have any money and you don't want to go to jail, consider giving blood today and bring me your receipt back," Wiggins is reported to have said, "or the sheriff has enough handcuffs for those who do not have money," according to the complaint. Wiggins also said to consider the option of giving blood "a discount rather than putting you in jail."

The SPLC says Wiggins, who has not publicly reacted to the incident, failed to demonstrate professional competence and failed to uphold the integrity of the law, adding that while threat of the poor being jailed in Perry County is not unique to that county, the blood payment may be.

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