Sandra Bland

Grand Jury Declines to Indict in Death of Sandra Bland—May Still Consider Charges Against Officer Who Arrested Her

Family says they haven't been part of the process, special prosecutor says he wants them to be.

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family photo

In July Sandra Bland was found dead, hanging in a cell she had spent three days in after being dragged out of her car and arrested for allegedly assaulting a public servant. The coroner ruled the death a suicide and last night a grand jury that had convened in Waller County, Texas, decided not to issue any indictments related to her death. Among those considered for indictment were employees of the county jail where Bland died.

The special prosecutor, Darrell Jordan, says the grand jury will reconvene in January for remaining issues. That could include whether to indict the officer who first arrested Bland. That officer, Brian Encinia, had been suspended for violating the state Department of Public Safety's courtesy policy after Bland's death garnered national media attention.

The family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the state police and county jail, which is set to go to trial in January 2017, and has criticized the grand jury process. KHOU reports:

"Right now, the biggest problem for us is the entire process," said Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland's mother. "It's the secrecy of it all. I can't even begin to tell you what's going on because I myself don't know what's going on. To not have my council be privy to any of this evidence that's being presented, I simply can't have faith in the system that's not inclusive of my family.

But Special Prosecutor Darrell Jordan refutes that the family has been kept out of the loop.

"We're happy to speak with (the family)," Jordan said Monday. "We've asked before to speak with them and we'll ask again. We would love to speak with the family. I've never heard of any situation in all my years of a prosecutor not speaking to the victim's family."

Tev Diamantopoulos, the Bland's family attorney, said he was not aware of the special prosecutors attempting to speak with the Bland family

Last summer, authorities promised an "open and transparent" investigation. The Bland family also says the Texas Rangers were not thoroughly investigating Sandra Bland's death.

Attorneys for the county are seeking to have the lawsuit thrown out—they claim Bland killed herself because her family didn't bail her our fast enough. A county attorney had earlier claimed the presence of a small amount of THC in Bland's blood stream could have been "relevant as to her state of mind."

As Jacob Sullum noted this summer, a 1977 Supreme Court ruling, Pennsylvania v. Mimms, permits officers to order a legally detained driver out of their cars in the name of officer safety. But policies encouraging de-escalation and limiting legal engagements with citizens would also go a long way for officer safety, and everyone else's.

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  1. “Courtesy policy”? I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

  2. By all means release the grand jury transcripts, so we can see if (a) she actually committed suicide and (b) if the guards should have prevented it but didn’t.

    The transcript will presumably deal with issues of whether she was suicidal, what security precautions there were at the jail, etc.

    Let us by all means criticize the secrecy of the transcript, but I don’t think that’s the grand jury’s fault.

    Since it’s not their fault, let’s await the transcript before concluding they let guilty people walk.

    1. I would suggest that if a public official is a suspect in a crime, the grand jury transcript should *automatically* be released.

    2. Since it’s not their fault, let’s await the transcript before concluding they let guilty people walk.

      No. They no longer get the benefit of the doubt from me. Unless I see actual evidence which exonerates the pigs, I am going to assume that they murdered her.

      1. Guilty until proven innocent, eh?

  3. “Right now, the biggest problem for us is the entire process,” said Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland’s mother. “It’s the secrecy of it all. I can’t even begin to tell you what’s going on because I myself don’t know what’s going on. To not have my council be privy to any of this evidence that’s being presented, I simply can’t have faith in the system that’s not inclusive of my family.

    If she had raised a daughter who did not assault police officers then she wouldn’t be in this situation. Once again it all comes down to bad parenting.

    1. That is way too realistically Tulpish to be funny.

        1. You’re good.

      1. *sits, staring at screen with slight look of despair*

        *shrugs, slowly stands up and shuffles of to coffee machine*

  4. I’ve never heard of any situation in all my years of a prosecutor not speaking to the victim’s family.

    “Then again, having a situation where a member of the club might be prosecuted is completely foreign to me, so…”

  5. I have no idea what happened at the jail. It’s certainly possible that the jailers did their jobs more or less appropriately (or at least in a manner not rising to criminal culpability), but Bland killed herself anyway.

    That’s a completely separate issue from the arrest. Officer Encinia should have been arrested on the spot, fired, and charged for abuse of his official position, assault, battery, kidnapping, and whatever else the prosecutor could come up with. He caused the argument with Bland, then arrested her for daring to take the bait. That encounter was un-fucking-believable. I don’t know how even the Tulpas of the world could defend it.

    1. I don’t know how even the Tulpas of the world could defend it.

      It is really quite simple. They are evil.

    2. IIRC Bland had a pretty solid history of being agressive with cops. Her rap sheet showed more than a couple of incidences. It is impossible to say who has ultimate ressponsibility for the argument but I know that if I’m stopped by a man with a gun and he tells me to put my cigarette out I’m gonna do it.

      A cigarette isn’t worth starting an argument with a cop to me, but evidentially it was to her and look where she is now.

      Her family who are now looking to get paid didn’t bail her out of jail for some reason. Would you let someone you love sit in jal any longer than necessary for $300 ? Maybe they just all said “here she goes again “.

      1. Wow, the prosecutor himself didn’t admit to making up his mind that quickly!

      2. Poe’s Law?

      3. I’ve seen this argument a lot. You only look at this from the point of view of whether Bland’s actions were prudent. Of course they weren’t; it’s never prudent to anger someone with a gun who knows he’ll never be held accountable.

        Nothing in your comment pertains to whether the officer was justified, and I think it is willfully biased to care more whether a private citizen met a high standard of conduct, than whether a public servant met a minimal one.

        1. Well said, and ought to be said more often. Some express disapproval only when government does what it should not do, never when it does badly what it should.

      4. “It is impossible to say who has ultimate ressponsibility for the argument.”

        Bull-freaking-shit. This is ON VIDEO — the entire thing! It is impossible to conclude that the argument was anyone’s fault BUT the officer’s. Oh, and it was the officer’s job to protect people and respect their constitutional rights. Bland had no duty to be nice to the officer, although she was reasonably respectful, if short, with him until he started demanding that she bow to his will. And, that’s all beside the point — arguing with a cop is not a basis for arrest. Bland and every other citizen of the US is entitled to say whatever they hell they want to cops, and shouldn’t have to fear official reprisal. At least that’s what the dusty old Constitution says, if you give a shit about things like that.

  6. I could be wrong here,I’ve been wrong before, and likely will be wrong in the future. That being said, instances akin to this one, in my view, raise significant question re Support Your Local Police, something that one used to hear a lot.

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