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No Indictments In Sandra Bland's Death. Guess Everything's Fine In Texas, Then
An old selfie of someone we don't even know shouldn't bring us to tears, should it?
[contextly_sidebar id="CSCuvksWyoBheDGy7sILotZNEsxdEgjb"]A grand jury in Waller County, Texas, has decided against issuing any indictments in the death of Sandra Bland, the African-American woman who died in a jail cell after being arrested in a traffic stop over changing lanes without signaling. Twitter blew up Tuesday in disappointment and outrage, although it's not clear who at the jail could have been prosecuted, or for what. But given allll the incidents we've seen, the videos of police abusing black motorists, and the cops caught lying, all the damn time, there's a sense that something had to be hinky when a woman who'd just gotten her “dream job” at Prairie View A&M, her alma mater, died in what was ruled a suicide.
While Bland's family has argued from the outset that they don't believe she killed herself, an investigation by Texas Rangers found no evidence to suggest that Bland's death was anything but a suicide, according to Waller County district attorney Elton Mathis. But even if it was a suicide, Think Progress also identifies a number of safety procedures that were ignored at the Waller County Jail:
Bland’s indication that she was depressed and had previously attempted suicide should have, at the very least, triggered safety protocols such as a requirement that she be subject to frequent face-to-face observations to ensure that she was not attempting to kill herself. Yet, a week after her death, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards issued a notice of non-compliance because “officers were not checking on inmates as frequently as they should be” and “not all jail staff had undergone an annual suicide prevention training required by their own suicide prevention plan.” This was at least the second time this jail was cited for non-compliance — it received a similar citation in 2012 after a 29 year-old man killed himself while incarcerated.
The grand jury apparently didn't find that those shortcomings actually merited a criminal case, though.
The case remains open, however. The Atlantic notes that the grand jury only considered possible misconduct by jail employees; the grand jury will meet again in January to consider other possible indictments, which could include potential charges against Brian Encinia, the cop who pulled her over. Encinia has been criticized for needlessly accelerating tensions during the July 10 traffic stop and arrest that put Bland in jail in the first place:
[Special prosecutor Darrell] Jordan said jurors would reconvene in January to consider other aspects of the case, which may include actions taken by Encinia, who Texas public safety officials say violated policies of professionalism and courtesy in his encounter with Bland. Encinia has been on administrative duty since her death in July.
So there's still the possibility that a wrist may get slapped, at least.
Bland's family has also filed a civil suit against Waller County in her death; Chicago attorney Cannon Lambert, who represents Bland's mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, said Monday:
It's exactly the type of thing we had a concern about, the fact that they were going to do exactly what they did ... They did not keep the family informed.
Lambert added that the special prosecutor in Texas hasn't met with Bland's family or legal representatives, and called the grand jury's deliberations a "sham of a proceeding."
"They just do this so they can say, 'We looked at all the evidence,'" Lambert said.
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders wasted no time in condemning the decision. In a statement posted to Twitter Monday night, he pointed out the obvious: If Sandra Bland had been a white woman, even a frustrated one who talked back to a cop, she almost certainly would be alive today, because she never would have been hauled off to jail for failing to use a turn signal.
Darn it, why would he have to go and politicize the death of a black woman in police custody? The grand jury says everything is fine, and so everything is fine. Black people don't want to die at the hands of police, or while in custody? Simple: Obey all orders, never change lanes without signaling, don't talk back, don't act up, never use weed if you'll be driving within a month, keep your mouth shut, don't leave the house, and stop thinking you have the right to be treated as if you were a white motorist.