Texas county says woman killed herself when no one bailed her out

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 13, 2015 3:53 PM

By Lisa Maria Garza

DALLAS (Reuters) - Lawyers for a Texas county sued by the family of black woman found hanged in a jail cell said she committed suicide because she was despondent over her relatives refusing to bail her out.

The family of Sandra Bland filed a wrongful death lawsuit in August against a Texas trooper, a sheriff’s office and Bland's jailers, accusing them of being responsible for her apparent suicide in a county jail.

In a motion filed for summary judgment this week, lawyers representing Waller County and two jail guards said Bland was allowed to make several phone calls to relatives and she could have been released from jail on a bond of $515.

"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,” lawyers for the county said in court documents.

An attorney for Bland’s family was not available for comment.

Her death fueled criticism over the treatment of black men and women by police in the United States.

Bland, 28, was pulled over in her car on July 10 by a white state trooper, Brian Encinia, for failing to signal a lane change in Prairie View, about 50 miles northwest of Houston.

The stop escalated into a verbal altercation after Encinia asked Bland to put out a cigarette and she refused. Bland was charged with assaulting an officer, a felony. The Texas Department of Public Safety has said the trooper acted improperly.

Bland was found hanged in her jail cell three days after her arrest. Local officials have said she was not mistreated.The wrongful death lawsuit, filed in federal court in Texas, said officials violated Bland's constitutional rights. The family said it was seeking financial damages, but court papers did not specify an amount.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz)