Grand jury decides against indictments in Sandra Bland case

Posted at 10:55 PM, Dec 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-22 13:13:51-05

A Texas grand jury has decided not to indict anyone relating to the death of Sandra Bland, a case that raised questions of excessive police force and the role of race after she was found dead in a jail cell last summer.

The grand jury, however, will reconvene in January to consider whether to indict people on other charges in connection with the case, Darrell Jordan, a special prosecutor handling the case, said Monday night.

Jordan also said the grand jury decided that no Waller County Jail employee would be charged. He declined to say what charges still could be considered and against whom.

“After reviewing all the evidence in the death of Sandra Bland, a Waller grand jury did not return an indictment in the death of Bland, nor were any indictments returned against any employee of the Waller County Jail,” Jordan said after the grand jury met for more than eight hours Monday.

“The grand jury has looked at all the evidence and found no evidence of murder,” he said.

Bland, an African-American woman, was found dead in her cell three days after being arrested for allegedly failing to use her turn signal on July 10. She was 28.

Officials in Waller County — northwest of Houston — have said she hanged herself with a plastic bag. Her family and others have questioned that account.

Those questions continued Monday night.

“We are not going to allow what they have done in a limited, secret capacity to prevent us from doing what we need to do to get answers for the family,” Bland family attorney Cannon Lambert told CNN affiliate KPRC-TV in Houston.

Even before Monday’s decision, Bland’s family in Chicago called the grand jury system in Texas flawed, saying the testimony should be open to the public.

“Right now, the biggest problem for me is the entire process,” Bland’s mother, Geneva Read-Veal, said. “I simply can’t have faith in a system that’s not inclusive of my family that’s supposed to have the investigation.”

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders also weighed in.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that she, like too many African-Americans who die in police custody, would be alive today if she were a white woman,” he said. “We need to reform a very broken criminal justice system.”

Jailhouse video

In late July, authorities released hours of jail video in an effort to knock down the idea that Bland was dead before she was brought to jail.

“The reason we’re doing this is because of the misinformation that has been put out — both through social media and even through mainstream media — that has led to the rumors that Sandra Bland was in some way deceased, or harmed, or not well when she was brought in to the Waller County Jail,” Waller County Judge Trey Duhon told reporters at the time.

The video, which does not have sound, shows Bland being brought into the jail. Her handcuffs are removed during an initial intake at which she appears to be coherent and cooperative.

At one point, Bland holds her head in her hands. At another, she steps into a bathroom to change her clothes. Bland has her mug shot taken, and she can be seen making a phone call.

Footage from the following day shows Bland meeting with a judge. She makes more phone calls.