No indictment in death of Sandra Bland: prosecutor

HEMPSTEAD, Texas - A grand jury decided on Monday that no felony crime was committed by the sheriff's office or jailers in the treatment of a black woman who died in a Southeast Texas county jail last summer.

See Full Article

But prosecutor Darrell Jordan said the Waller County grand jury reached no decision on whether the trooper who arrested 28-year-old Sandra Bland should face charges. The grand jury will return in January to consider that issue.

The Chicago-area woman was pulled over July 10 by a Texas state trooper for making an improper lane change. Dashcam video showed their interaction quickly became confrontational and she was arrested for assault.

Bland was taken in handcuffs to the county jail in nearby Hempstead, about 50 miles northwest of Houston, and remained there when she couldn't raise about $500 for bail. She was discovered dead in her jail cell three days later, hanging from a cell partition with a plastic garbage bag used as a ligature around her neck.

Bland's relatives, along with supporters fueled by social media postings, questioned a medical examiner's finding that Bland killed herself. Cannon Lambert, an attorney representing Bland's family, said Monday the decision is consistent with what the family believes has so far been an attempt by authorities to cover up the events after Bland's arrest.

"They continue to do things we are disappointed in," he said.

Bland's mother and sisters spoke at a news conference in Chicago before Monday night's announcement, where they said they had no faith in the grand jury.

Bland's mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, said she wants to see all the evidence and is frustrated by delays in the case. Attorney Larry Rogers acknowledged grand juries usually meet in secret, but said the process "screams of a coverup." He said lawyers haven't been able to examine a Texas Rangers report on the incident because it's grand jury evidence.

In the days after her death, county authorities released video from the jail to dispel rumours and conspiracy theories that Bland was dead before she arrived at the jail or was killed while in custody. County officials said they themselves received death threats.

Her arrest and death came amid heightened national scrutiny of police and their dealings with black suspects, especially those killed by officers or who died in police custody.

"After presenting all the evidence as it relates to the death of Sandra Bland, the grand jury did not return an indictment," Jordan, one of the five special prosecutors, said after the grand jury met Monday for about 11 hours. "The grand jury also considered things that occurred at the jail and did not return an indictment."

Grand jurors considered evidence collected by a team of five special prosecutors named by the county's district attorney, Elton Mathis.

"Having an independent committee to evaluate the case, that can be a positive thing in a situation like this," Brian Serr, a law professor at Baylor University said.

Among evidence presented in the secret grand jury proceedings were the findings of a Texas Rangers' investigation.

"There's nothing in there that shows anything happened but she killed herself," Mathis had said.

Lambert said late Monday he believes prosecutors' decision to have the grand jury return in January is another attempt to delay releasing the report. He said he expects to file a motion in court asking a judge to compel Texas authorities to turn over the document.

Bland's sister didn't immediately respond to a phone message requesting comment on the grand jury's decision, and Reed-Veal couldn't be reached for comment late Monday.

Royce West, a Dallas Democrat who has been a vocal leader in the case, and one of two black Texas state senators, also had said he was "comfortable" with the medical examiner's determination.

But Bland's mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court in Houston against the trooper, the Texas Department of Public Safety, Waller County and two jail employees. State lawyers have asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

The Bland family attorneys contend Waller County jailers should have checked on her more frequently and that the county should have performed mental evaluations once she disclosed she had a history of attempting suicide. In her lawsuit, Reed-Veal also contends that the trooper who arrested her daughter, Brian Encinia, falsified the assault allegation to take Bland into custody and that jail personnel failed to keep her daughter safe.

County officials have said Bland was treated well while locked up and produced documents that show she gave jail workers inconsistent information about whether she was suicidal.

Encinia, who in June completed a year-long probationary stint as a new trooper, has been on administrative duty since the Bland death.

Dashcam video from his car showed Encinia at one point holding a stun gun and yelling at Bland, "I will light you up!" after she refuses to get out of her car. The director of the Department of Public Safety, Steve McCraw, has said Encinia violated internal policies of professionalism and courtesy.

Melissa Hamilton, visiting criminal law scholar at the University of Houston, said Bland had no legal right to remain in her car after the trooper ordered her out.

"Whether you like it or not, the Supreme Court has made it clear police are in charge at a traffic stop, and they can make anybody get out of the car - driver or passenger - for no reason whatsoever," she said. "The idea for that is to allow police to control a potentially dangerous situation."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Authorities: Bullet meant for charging pit bull ricochets off ground and kills teen boy

    World News Toronto Sun
    PALMDALE, CALIF. - A deputy’s bullet that was fired at a charging pit bull apparently ricocheted off the ground and hit and killed a 17-year-old boy who had been helping to restrain the dog, authorities said Thursday. Source
  • Skunk with McFlurry cup stuck on its head gets daring rescue

    Canada News CTV News
    A sticky situation almost became a stinky one when an Ontario woman came to the aid of a skunk with a McDonald’s McFlurry cup stuck on its head. Tina Christie from Kemptville, Ont., was getting her car washed when she noticed the distressed animal. Source
  • Trudeau must step up to the plate for pastor jailed in North Korea

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    There seems to be time for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to playfully crash weddings and school graduations, attend political parades as well as sometimes surf, kayak, run, bike and climb. But can he find a minute to call North Korea’s dictator to talk about imprisoned Canadian Rev. Source
  • Intercept attempt fails in missile defence test off Hawaii

    World News CTV News
    HONOLULU -- The U.S. Missile Defence Agency said it failed to intercept a ballistic missile during a test off Hawaii. The failure came during a test conducted with Japan's Defence Ministry late Wednesday. The U.S. Source
  • North Korea tests rocket engine, U.S. officials say

    World News CBC News
    North Korea has carried out another test of a rocket engine that the United States believes could be part of its program to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile, a U.S. official told Reuters on Thursday. Source
  • 'Hopefully, someday we'll see justice': Elliot Lake marks 5 years since deadly mall collapse

    Canada News CBC News
    Cars on Ontario Avenue in Elliot Lake, Ont., pass by a dusty, deserted property spanning several city blocks. An abandoned demolition machine, worn out signs and a road leading to where the Algo Centre Mall's parking deck used to be are all that is left on the site. Source
  • Alberta investigation to probe complaints of jailing indigenous sex assault victim

    Canada News CTV News
    EDMONTON -- Alberta's Judicial Council will investigate complaints made about a judge over the jailing of an indigenous sex assault victim. The head of the council has received four complaints about provincial court Judge Raymond Bodnarek over his ruling that forced the homeless woman to spend time in the Edmonton Remand Centre. Source
  • Brexit: May offers hope for EU citizens, wins guarded praise

    World News CTV News
    BRUSSELS -- British Prime Minister Theresa May promised Thursday that EU citizens will not be immediately kicked out of Britain when it leaves the union and says their fate will be a top priority in Brexit negotiations -- prompting guarded praise from other EU leaders at a tense time for the continent. Source
  • Reserve declares state of emergency after third teen suicide

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Jenera Roundsky was just 12. On June 13, she texted a friend to say farewell - and then she killed herself. Jenera was the third girl to kill herself in recent days on the Wapekeka First Nation - northwest of Thunder Bay. Source
  • Police say security 'climate,' not specific threat, prompted weapons upgrade

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- City police officers patrolling the airport in the nation's capital are getting military-style rifles, but officials say the move wasn't prompted by any specific security threats. Rather, police say, the issuance of carbine rifles to officers at Ottawa International Airport will simply provide a higher degree of safety for travellers. Source