After meeting for close to 11 hours on Monday, a grand jury in Texas late last night announcedthat no indictments will be made in connection with the death of Sandra Bland, who died while in police custody this past July. The grand jury will meet again next month in order to “take up remaining issues,” said Darrell Jordan, one of the special prosecutors for the case.
Bland was pulled over in a routine traffic stop on July 10 for failing to use a signal when changing lanes. Dash cam footage shows that Bland andTexas state trooper Brian Encinia began verbally arguing. Encinia quickly became agitated and threatened to “yank” Bland from her car before he opened her car door. The footage does not show what happened inside the car, but moments later Encinia pointed his taser at Bland and said, “I am gonna drag you out of here I will light you up.”
The altercation eventually ended with Bland on the ground. Encinia determined she was non-compliant and handcuffed and arrested her. Three days later, on July 13, she was found dead in her jail cell, hangingfrom a plastic bag.
Shortly after Bland’s death, the hashtag #IfIDieInPoliceCustody trended on Twitter. People posted personal statements telling friends, family and the public that if they were to die under suspicious circumstances while in police custody, like Bland, it would not be from committing suicide, suggesting it would be from foul play.
A 2014 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics revealed that three out of four people who die while in jail have, like Bland, not even been convicted of a crime. Further, the majority of these deaths occur within the first month of being in custody, with 36.5 percent taking place in the first week and 21 percent in the first 8-30 days. And in 2012, 31.3 percent of jail deaths were labeled as suicides.
According to Jordan, “the case is still open.” Monday’s decision was specifically in regard to Bland’s death. Charges can still be filed in relation to other aspects of the case.
“It’s all in the way you phrase it,” Jordan said. “The case is not over. That’s what I’m stressing right now. The case is not over.”
But Bland’s family has expressed considerable frustration with the case from the start and believes the police have been secretive about details.
“We are unfortunately disappointed by the fact that our suspicions regarding this sham of a process have come to fruition,” said Cannon Lambert, a lawyer for Bland’s family.
According to Lambert, the Bland family found out from the newsthat there would be no indictment in Bland’s death. He also said he was unclear about what the jury would be meeting about in January.
“We would like very much to know what in the heck they’re doing, who they’re targeting and if it has anything to do with Sandy and her circumstances,” Lambert said.
Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland’s mother, said that no one involved in the case has provided her family with any important information. “Right now the biggest problem I have is the entire process,” Reed-Veal said. “It’s the secrecy of it all.”
From the beginning, Bland’s family did not believe she would have committed suicide and suspected foul play. At the time of her death, Sharon Cooper, one of Bland’s sisters, said, “Based on the Sandy I knew, this is unfathomable to me.”
Now, five months after Bland’s death, the process has not gotten easier, Cooper said.
“We feel like we have been shut out of this process from the very beginning,” she said. “And we’re at the door, knocking, willing and waiting, and waiting for the door to open for the answers that we’ve asked for regardless of what they are.”
The family filed a wrongful death suit in August. A trial date for that civil case has been set for Jan. 23, 2017. But for now, all the family can do is wait and depend on a system that Reed-Veal said is “not inclusive of my family.”
“We’re supposed to have a real investigation to show us what’s happening,” she said. “We know what we’ve been listening to in the media but we don’t have any real evidence.”