Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old Chicago native who was found dead in a Texas jail cell in July, committed suicide because her family and friends failed to post her bond after she was arrested for a minor traffic violation, lawyers for jail officials said earlier this week.
A motion filed by attorneys representing the Waller County, Texas jailers who had contact with Bland asks that the lawsuit filed by Bland’s family be dismissed, the Chicago Tribune reports. The jailers followed protocol when booking Bland, the motion reads.
Bland’s family members, who have tirelessly fought for answers in her death, believe the jail was negligent. An official autopsy shows that Bland died from an apparent suicide — authorities say the young woman hanged herself three days after she was arrested during a traffic stop. Activists and family members who say Bland had everything to live for believe the details surrounding her death are mysterious, especially given the violent way Bland was handled during her arrest.
Now, attorneys are arguing that Bland became distraught after she could not raise the $515 needed to be released from jail.
“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,” the motion said.
“In this case, (the jailers) conducted suicide screenings of Bland, and she indicated she was not suicidal,” the motion said. “She disclosed a prior suicide attempt, but based on the totality of the circumstances, including Bland’s demeanor and the charges against her, (the jailers) did not find her to be suicidal.”
The jail allowed her to make several phone calls in an attempt to raise bond, including to a Texas man with whom Bland had been staying, “but it appeared he was intentionally ignoring her calls,” the motion said. Bland also contacted a bail bondsman, who, the jail said, contacted Bland’s mother and other relatives.
Cannon Lambert, a Chicago-area attorney who represents Bland’s mother, called the motion “extremely premature.”
“I think it’s amazing that they said that,” Lambert said. “I’m not sure how they can say that without having taken my client’s deposition.”
“It is very, very early in this litigation for them to have filed that kind of motion. They’re making allegations about what my clients know or what my clients did, without even having spoken to them, and I’m curious about how it is they can come to the conclusion that [Bland’s male friend] was ignoring phone calls . . . They’ve certainly not given us any statements in discovery that reflects that that’s the case.”
The officer involved in Bland’s arrest was placed on administrative leave. The jailers present during Bland’s stay have not been charged or reprimanded.