In a highly anticipated decision earlier this week, the grand jury refused to issue any indictments related to the death of Sandra Bland.
Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman, was arrested and charged with assaulting a public servant on July 10 in Prairie View, Texas. She had allegedly failed to use her turn signal while changing lanes and was pulled over. After her arrest, she went through intake and was booked into Waller County jail. Three days later she was found dead in her jail cell.
The medical examiner called it a “suicide by asphyxiation.” It appeared Bland had hanged herself with a plastic garbage bag accessible in her cell.
Bland was a 2009 graduate of Prairie View’s College of Agriculture and was returning to the predominantly black campus for a new career in the fall. She never made it to her new job. Her death became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement and jail standards across the U.S.
Bland’s family sued Waller County for negligence in her death, but county attorneys said jail officials weren’t responsible. Instead, they blamed Bland’s family and friends for their unwillingness to post the $515 bond for her release.
But Monday night the grand jury decided that no felony crime was committed by the Waller County sheriff’s office of the jailers in Bland’s treatment.
“Community reaction is pretty intense and obviously across social media there’s a lot of outrage,” Smith says. “With the family, I know they’re somewhat disappointed. Their lawyer spoke to the press yesterday and called the grand jury a ‘sham of a proceeding.’ So we’re really going to have to see what happens going forward.”
The attorney for Bland’s parents had a press conference earlier Monday, questioning why the grand jury was taking so long, and questioning the entire process. They mentioned the secrecy of the proceedings but Smith says grand jury proceedings are secretive by nature.
“We’ll be reporting over the next couple of weeks, trying to learn more,” he says. “There will be more hearings… next month and so there’s more detail to come out of that.”
Bland’s parents have filed a civil lawsuit against the sheriff’s office. The grand jury will reconvene in January to decide if the white trooper who pulled Bland over, Brian Encinia, should face charges on how he conducted himself in the traffic stop. Until the grand jury reaches a decision on Encinia, he remains out of the field, but is still with the Department of Public Safety.
“[DPS] reviewed the stop. They found that he violated internal procedures, the Department’s courtesy policy basically,” Smith says. “They investigated him for ‘official oppression’ – that would be the charge – and then forwarded those findings to the grand jury. He’s been on administrative duties ever since.”