Texas Jury Refuses to Indict Jail Staff in Sandra Bland's Death

by | December 22, 2015

By Emma Hinchliffe and Cindy George

A grand jury refused Monday night to issue any indictments related to the death of Sandra Bland, who died in custody at the Waller County Jail in July, a decision expected to intensify the nationwide debate about the treatment of minorities at the hands of law enforcement.

The grand jury also decided Monday not to issue indictments to any staff of the Waller County Jail, according to Darrell Jordan, one of five Houston-area lawyers appointed as independent special prosecutors. Earlier in the day at a Chicago news conference, the family of Bland, a black woman, had said they had no faith in the grand jury's proceedings.

"It's exactly the type of thing we had a concern about, the fact that they were going to do exactly what they did," Cannon Lambert, a lawyer for Bland's mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, later said of the decision. "They did not keep the family informed."

This was the grand jury's third time convening in nearly six weeks to consider whether criminal charges should be filed in any aspect of the Bland case.

Lambert said Monday that neither his clients nor their lawyers have met with the special prosecutors.

The grand jury will resume in January to take up remaining issues, beyond indictments related to Bland's death and the jail staff, Jordan said.

"The most important thing is for people to realize it's not over," Jordan said.

Lambert questioned what substantive issues remain in what he called the grand jury's "sham of a proceeding."

"They just do this so they can say, 'We looked at all the evidence,' " Lambert said.

Bland, 28, was found dead in a Waller County jail cell on July 13, three days after she was pulled over by Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Brian Encinia in Prairie View and arrested. An autopsy determined that her in-custody death was a suicide by hanging.

Last week, a Houston federal judge set a January 2017 trial date for the wrongful death lawsuit that Bland's mother and the estate have filed against Encinia, DPS, Waller County and county jailers Elsa Magnus and Oscar Prudente.

Bland, a Prairie View A&M University graduate, has become an emblem of the Black Lives Matter movement. Her arrest and death intensified international protests over police interaction in the United States with people of color. The traffic stop was among recent citizen-law enforcement interactions captured on video. In this case, the footage came from the trooper's dash camera.

She was memorialized this summer when the Prairie View City Council renamed a 1-mile stretch of University Boulevard as Sandra Bland Parkway.

The Waller County Sheriff's Office had not heard of the decision Monday night.

(c)2015 the Houston Chronicle