On December 21th 2015, the grand jury said it will bring no charges in the death of Sandra Bland. She died in jail last July, three days after a traffic stop in Waller County, Texas. Two videos of the stop went viral. The medical examiner said she had hanged herself using a trash bag.
Her family seriously doubts it was suicide. Jail officials did not think she was depressed either, even after she told them that she had tried to take her life last year after a miscarriage. They did not put her on suicide watch.
“In prisons, it is not at all uncommon to find a prisoner hanged or burned to death in his cell. No matter how suspicious the circumstances, these deaths are always ruled “suicides.” They are usually Black inmates, considered to be a “threat to the orderly running of the prison.” They are usually among the most politically aware and socially conscious inmates in the prison.”
That fits Sandra Bland. She was Black, she stood up for herself and she was a Black Lives Matter activist.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) admits that it keeps an eye on Black Lives Matter through the Internet for:
“situational awareness purposes” to “ensure that critical information reaches appropriate decision-makers in federal, state, local, tribal and territorial governments.”
but denies that it keeps files on anyone in the movement – the sort of thing the FBI did to the Black Power movement in the 1960s and 1970s under Cointelpro.
The grand jury heard nine hours of evidence. As is common with grand juries, and unlike trial juries, the hearing was held in secret, there was no judge present, and no lawyer to question the evidence and witnesses presented by the prosecutor.
The grand jury decision was presumably based mainly on the autopsy. Yet that same autopsy says that she had high levels of marijuana in her blood, so high that she would have had to have smoked marijuana in jail!
The grand jury will meet again in January to decide “other issues” – presumably whether the arresting officer, Brian Encinia, broke any laws during the traffic stop. Encinia is still on paid leave.
The family has brought a wrongful-death civil lawsuit against:
- Officer Brian Encinia,
- the Texas Department of Public Safety,
- Waller County,
- the Sheriff’s Office,
- jail officers Elsa Magnus and Oscar Prudente.
No one would go to jail, but the state or county may have to pay damages, maybe several million dollars. And, the family might at last get some answers.
So far all that we know about the case, aside from one citizen video, is whatever state and county authorities have chosen to make public. The family does not even have the report on Sandra Bland’s arrest or death. It is also missing key parts of the autopsy, which is holding up their own independent autopsy. Authorities say it is because the investigation is still ongoing.
After January, they will no longer have that excuse.
– Abagond, 2015.
Update (January 7th): The grand jury has charged Encinia with perjury, saying that he lied about why he pulled her out of the car. If found guilty, he could face up to one year in prison and a $4,000 fine. More.
Image: Friends of Jusrice.
- Sandra Bland
- grand jury
- Black Lives Matter
- Assata Shakur
- Black Power