Prosecutor: No indictment in Sandra Bland’s jail death – December 21, 2015 11:17PM ET

 Bland’s family has said they do not believe her case is being thoroughly investigated by the Texas Rangers

A grand jury has decided no felony crime was committed by the sheriff’s office or jailers in the treatment of a black woman who died in a Southeast Texas county jail last summer.

But prosecutor Darrell Jorden says the Waller County grand jury on Monday reached no decision on whether the trooper that arrested 28-year-old Sandra Bland should face charges. The grand jury will return in January to consider that.

The Chicago-area woman was pulled over July 10 by a Texas state trooper for making an improper lane change. Authorities contend the stop became confrontational and a video of her arrest shows a state trooper kneeling on top of her as she is facedown on the ground. She can be heard saying that the trooper slammed her head to the ground and that she could not hear. She was arrested for assault.

Bland was taken in handcuffs to the county jail in nearby Hempstead, about 50 miles northwest of Houston, and remained there when she couldn’t raise about $500 for bail. She was discovered dead in her jail cell three days later, hanging from a cell partition with a plastic garbage bag used as a ligature around her neck.

Thumbnail image for Sandra Bland, Samuel DuBose and the rise of ‘vehicular stop and frisk’

Sandra Bland, Samuel DuBose and the rise of ‘vehicular stop and frisk’

Racially based stops for minor traffic violations on the rise because of court action and police practice, say activists

Bland’s relatives, along with supporters fueled by social media postings, questioned an official autopsy finding that Bland killed herself.

In the days after her death, county authorities released video from the jail to dispel rumors and conspiracy theories that Bland was dead before she arrived at the jail or was killed while in custody. County officials said they themselves received death threats.

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At Least Five Black Woman Found Dead In Jail Since Mid-July – BY CARIMAH TOWNES JUL 28, 2015 9:45PM



On Monday morning, police in Mount Vernon, New York discovered a 44-year-old woman dead in her cell. She is the fifth black woman, at least, to die behind bars this month.

According to Mayor Earnest Davis, Raynetta Turner was arrested and locked in a holding cell Saturday afternoon on shoplifting charges. Some time after her arrest, Turner informed Westchester County police that she had numerous medical problems, and was eventually brought to Montefiore-Mount Vernon Hospital Sunday evening. She returned to the holding cell briefly that night, before she was taken for fingerprinting at 2 a.m. She was found dead 12 hours later.

The mayor has since explained that Turner’s medical history included hypertension and bariatric surgery. No official cause of death has been determined.

But her death follows at least four other deaths of black women in police custody since July 13, shining an even brighter spotlight on the plight of black women in the criminal justice system and fueling the Black Lives Matter movement. On that date, Sandra Bland was found hanging in her cell, three days after she was violently stopped for failing to signal a lane change in Waller County, Texas. The next day, 18-year-old Kindra Chapman committed suicide in an Alabama prison. She was arrested for stealing a cell phone. Joyce Curnell was arrested on shoplifting charges and found dead in her cell on July 24. On July 26, officers found Ralkina Jones dead in the Cleveland Heights City Jail, two days after she was arrested for a physical dispute with her husband. Like Turner, she was brought to a medical facility after a staff member observed Jones was lethargic — then returned to the jail. Prison officials say they conducted several check ups on the night she returned, but found her unresponsive around 7:30 the next morning. An investigation is currently under way.

UPDATE JUL 28, 2015 10:03 PM

This post has been changed to reflect a fifth death reported by Post and Courier.


“If I die in police custody”: Why Sandra Bland’s death is just the latest evidence that Black America is under attack – BRITTNEY COOPER WEDNESDAY, JUL 22, 2015 03:00 AM PDT

No one should end up dead after a routine police stop, but Sandra Bland did. This country has much to answer for

"If I die in police custody": Why Sandra Bland's death is just the latest evidence that Black America is under attack

No one should end up dead after receiving a citation for failure to properly signal a lane change. However, this is exactly what has happened to 28-year-old Sandra Bland, a resident of Illinois who was pulled over in Waller County, Texas, two Fridays ago, where she was traveling to take a new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University. According to police, after she refused an officer’s instructions to stop smoking a cigarette, she was ordered out of the car, accused of assaulting an officer, and then wrestled to the ground. The video of the arrest only shows an officer’s knees in her back, and her yelling that he had hurt her arm and slammed her head into the ground. She was taken to jail, arraigned, given a $5,000 bond, which she made arrangements with her older sister to pay, and set for release on Monday morning. Instead, she was found dead of an alleged suicide, having supposedly hanged herself with a plastic bag.

I do not believe that Sandra Bland hanged herself just a few hours before her sister was set to come and pay the $500 bail it would have taken to get her out of jail. I do not believe Sandra Bland hanged herself two days before taking her dream job at her alma mater. I do not believe Sandra Bland hanged herself.

No one with good sense believes that. And I challenge the sense of anyone who is willing to contort themselves into intellectual knots to make such a ridiculous story seem remotely plausible. This is what media reports about Sandra’s prior traffic tickets and minor previous arrest for smoking marijuana are supposed to make us do. This is what reports about her struggles with depression and PTSD are supposed to make us do. Depression and PTSD should not be conflated with being suicidal, and smoking marijuana is legal in a range of states and municipalities now. Moreover, PTSD diagnoses are rising at alarming levels in Black communities, because of continued exposure to poverty and violence.

Just one day after Sandra Bland was found, authorities in Homewood, Alabama, claimed that 18-year-old Kindra Chapman hanged herself in her jail cell not even two hours after being arrested for taking another person’s cellphone. On Tuesday morning, several Black Lives Matter protesters were arrested in Homewood, for protesting and demanding answers about Kindra’s suspicious death.

I do not believe the police accounts of these deaths. When story after story emerges of Black people who end up dead, over crimes for which they should never even have had to exit their cars, we should stop giving police the benefit of the doubt. Those of us with Black lives cannot afford such gambles. And the police should not be afforded such luxuries. As Ida B. Wells wrote just over a century ago, “Those who commit the murders, write the reports.” I recognize that in this moment, many folks become hyper-vigilant about “waiting for all the facts before making a judgment.” The fact of the matter is this: Police in Texas and Alabama would have us believe that Black women are committing suicide in the county or city jail for non-capital offenses.

When I was a kid, my cousins, country boys who spent their days fishing, hunting and riding four-wheelers, frequently teased me for having “book smarts, but no common sense.” Regardless, what I know for sure is that Black women don’t kill themselves when they know for sure that someone is on the way to get them out of prison for a minor traffic offense. Though I have a Ph.D., I certainly don’t need one to tell me that.

After the stories of Sandra’s and Kindra’s deaths started circulating, Black women in my Facebook community began posting pre-posthumous notes about what we should assume about them if they were ever to die in police custody. We should know unequivocally, each note made sure to say, that these women had not committed suicide. In my own pre-posthumous declaration, I wrote, “I didn’t commit suicide. I didn’t resist. I didn’t threaten the officer. I didn’t have a weapon. I prolly did ask a few pointed questions though.” On Twitter, Black women and men joined in with #IfIDieInPoliceCustody.