WALLER COUNTY, Tex. (STMW) - A day after Sandra Bland’s family blasted a Texas grand jury that later declined to bring charges in the Naperville woman’s death in a rural jail, a special prosecutor who investigated the case offered to answer any questions they have.
Darrell Jordan is one of five attorneys appointed to investigate Bland’s death while in custody in the Waller County, Texas, lockup in July but said he was never able to contact Bland’s relatives despite reaching out several times to their attorneys, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting. On Monday, the grand jury opted not to charge jail staffers in Bland’s death on July 13, when she hanged herself with a plastic trash bag.
At a new conference Monday before the grand jury’s decision was announced, several of Bland’s relatives and an attorney representing the family in a wrongful death lawsuit called the grand jury investigation a “farce” and complained that prosecutors did not reach out to them during the probe.
“When I see them on the news stating they have been left out of the process that’s not because of us,” Jordan told the Sun-Times on Tuesday, noting that he could not contact the family directly because of their pending wrongful death lawsuit against Waller County.
“We’re begging to talk to the Bland family. We’re begging to answer any questions that they have. I have never heard of a criminal case where the prosecutor did not talk to the victim’s family . . . any parent deserves to know anything out there that relates to the death of their child.”
A Bland family attorney, Cannon Lambert Sr., did not return a phone message on Tuesday, but on Monday night he told the Sun-Times: “Unfortunately, our suspicions proved to be accurate. The bottom line is that this whole proceeding, frankly speaking, is a farce in our mind.”
Bland was arrested following a traffic stop outside Houston as she drove to start a new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University. Bland was pulled over for an illegal lane change, but her encounter with a Texas state trooper quickly grew heated. In dashboard camera video that became yet another flashpoint in the national controversy over racial bias by police, Trooper Brian Encinia shouts at Bland for refusing to get out of the car or put out her cigarette and threatens at one point to jolt her with his Taser.
Bland died three days later at the Waller County jail after she was unable to raise $500 bond. Her family has filed a lawsuit against the Waller County Sheriff’s Department, which runs the jail, claiming that jail staff failed to properly supervise Bland, who had a history of depression and had attempted suicide in the past.
In Chicago, Bland was active in the Black Lives Matter movement, and her death while in police custody immediately stirred conspiracy theorists, Jordan noted Tuesday. Rumors that Bland was dead before she arrived at the jail and other scenarios all were investigated by five attorneys appointed as special prosecutors along with Jordan, and none of them checked out, he said.
On Monday, Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, said she wanted to see files from the investigation.
“We don’t have any information on what happened to my daughter,” she said. “You have it all, show it to me,”
The investigation presented to the grand jurors during an 11-hour hearing on Monday all was tied to what happened to Bland at the jail, and the panel opted not to bring criminal charges. Jordan noted the grand jury’s finding tracks with a civil lawsuit filed by Bland’s family, which states that Bland’s death was a suicide, and that jail staff did not do enough to ensure her safety.
“When somebody dies in custody, it goes to the grand jury in Texas,” Jordan said. “The grand jury analyzed all that evidence and chose not to indict anyone related to the death.”
The grand jury will meet again to consider evidence from the investigation of the events leading up to Bland’s arrival at the Waller County Jail, including her arrest by Encinia.