In the week since Sandra Bland was found dead in a Texas jail cell, just three days after she was pulled over and arrested for failure to signal, it has been revealed that the 28-year-old once attempted suicide, and battled bouts of depression.
Details from her autopsy, released Thursday, confirm that the cause of death was suicide by hanging, prosecutors told reporters.
But in the wake of Bland’s death — riddled with speculation that she may not have committed suicide or that the Waller County jail failed to give her due process — one pressing question remains that may hold jail officials responsible for Bland’s death.
Why wasn’t she put on suicide watch if she admittedly attempted suicide in the past?
In a statement Thursday, Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith defended the intake procedure, addressing some of the public’s most serious concerns. While Smith admitted, based on jail staff’s observations, that Bland was not placed on suicide watch, it’s unclear how or why they ignored her original admission.
A copy of Bland’s intake document, obtained by CBS News, revealed that Bland did admit to attempting suicide in 2014 after she experienced a miscarriage. But on another page of the document, Bland answers “no” when asked if she ever attempted suicide.
On a subsequent page of the document, which appears to be a typed summary of Bland’s responses, the response to “Attempted suicide?” is “no.” The reason for the discrepancy is unclear.
A second jailer also interviewed Bland, according to the sheriff. The 28-year-old from the Chicago area said she was not depressed but was upset about her arrest, which occurred following a confrontation with a white officer who had stopped her for a minor traffic violation.
Smith says both jailers who spoke with Bland, who was black, insisted that she appeared fine when being booked on a charge of assaulting a public servant.
It’s unclear if the discrepancy influenced jail staff’s decision not to put her on suicide watch.
Smith also defended Bland’s mugshot photo in the statement. Amid terrifying and disturbing internet speculation that Bland was deceased in the photos (hence her wearing an orange jumpsuit typically worn after processing), Smith suggested that there is a possibility, based on the number of people being processed, that inmates will not have on their own clothes during intake.
“Depending on how many inmates are being processed at the time, an inmate’s photograph may be taken in their original clothing or the inmate may be dressed out in orange,” he wrote.
It is unknown how many people were processed the day of Bland’s arrest.
While her family refuses to accept the suicide narrative, an inmate in a cell that shared a wall with Bland’s told CNN the woman was distraught, emotional, and refused to eat.
“She found out her bond was $5,000, and no one — she was calling and calling — and no one was answering, and then after that she just broke down. She was crying and crying,” Alexandria Pyle said.
The woman said she heard no commotion in the adjacent cell that would suggest foul play.
The Texas Rangers are investigating Bland’s death. The Justice Department has also been asked to investigate. You can read Smith’s full defense of jail procedures here: