Texas officials say Sandra Bland, who died in jail, was despondent over not making bail

Sandra Bland, the black woman found dead in a Texas county jail this summer, killed herself because she was despondent over her relatives’ refusal to quickly bail her out, attorneys for Waller County argued in a federal court motion to dismiss a wrongful death lawsuit.

An attorney for Bland’s family responded on Friday that blaming relatives for her death was “completely unnecessary and inaccurate.”

“That’s a gratuitous insult, pouring salt into the wound of an already devastated family,” said Larry Rogers Jr., a lawyer for Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland’s mother.


Bland, 28, from the Chicago area, was pulled over July 10 by a white Texas state trooper for making an improper lane change. When the traffic stop became a confrontation, she was arrested on suspicion of assault and jailed in Waller County, about 50 miles northwest of Houston.

Unable to meet the roughly $500 bond requirement, she was found dead in jail three days later.

“Ultimately, Bland’s decision to commit suicide was hers alone, after she denied any suicidal intentions to jail personnel, and after her friends and family refused to bail her out of jail,” said Larry Simmons, the attorney for the southeast Texas county and two of its jailers, in a court petition. The county and jailers were sued by the Bland family.

Rogers said the family didn’t ignore her pleas for help. He said they were trying to figure out how to “get her out of jail in a situation where it’s happening over a weekend, they’re not familiar with the procedures and processes, they’re over a thousand miles away.”

A medical examiner concluded that she used a plastic trash bag in the jail cell to hang herself. Members of her family have questioned whether she would have taken her own life. The family also says she was assaulted by a trooper during the arrest and the county failed to keep her safe and secure in jail.

The county said in its court filing this week that Bland was provided a phone to make free calls but a friend locally didn’t respond and at least one of her sisters “advised she would not bail Bland out of jail.”

The friend has said he didn’t see a voice mail message from her until it was too late.

It is apparent now that Bland’s inability to secure her release from jail -- and her family and friends’ refusal to bail her out of jail -- led her to commit suicide.

— Larry Simmons, attorney for Waller County

“It is apparent now that Bland’s inability to secure her release from jail — and her family and friends’ refusal to bail her out of jail — led her to commit suicide,” Simmons said.

Tom Rhodes, another attorney for Bland’s mother, added that the request for dismissal of the case was “premature” because lawyers haven’t been able to take any depositions from people involved.

Bland’s arrest and death came amid heightened national scrutiny of police and their dealings with black suspects, especially those who have been killed by officers or died in police custody.

Besides the county and two jailers, other defendants in the suit are the trooper, Brian Encinia, and the Texas Department of Public Safety. The Texas Attorney General’s office also has asked U.S. District Judge David Hittner to dismiss the lawsuit.

A hearing in the case before Hittner is set for next month.


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