Texas grand jury declines to indict jailers over in-custody death
McKINNEY, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – A grand jury has declined to indict the eight detention officers who were fired following the death of Marvin Scott III inside the Collin County Jail on March 14.
The possible charges could have ranged from misdemeanor assault to murder.
Scott’s family and civil rights groups had been demanding criminal charges against the former jailers during protests in the months since the 26-year-old man died.
The grand jury also took the rare step of issuing a statement which reads:
“After careful consideration of the applicable law and all the relevant facts we find the no probable cause exist to charge any person with a criminal offense related to the death of Mr. Scott. Accordingly, we have issued a no bill for each of the eight detention officers involved. We would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Mr. Scott for the terrible loss you have suffered. We hope you can someday find peace.”
Scott died after at least 10 hours in custody.
He was arrested for marijuana possession after he was found acting erratically in the parking lot of an Allen outlet mall.
It’s believed he was suffering from a mental health crisis but cleared by a doctor to be jailed.
Detention officers used a restraint bed, pepper spray and a spit hood and he eventually became unresponsive.
His family and attorney watched jail security video which they called “horrific” and says it showed the officers not helping Scott.
A medical examiner ruled Scott’s death a homicide as a result of the stress from schizophrenia and a restraint or struggle with law enforcement.
Legal experts say that type of ruling determine criminal liability.
The grand jury statement goes on to say:
“We are therefore recommending that a work group convene as soon as practicable to study the events of March 14 for lessons learned in an effort to avoid any similar future tragedy. We recommend that this work group consist of a diverse group of Collin County community leaders criminal justice and law-enforcement stakeholders local hospitals, and mental health providers. The goal of this work group should be finding the best solutions for the treatment of individuals with mental illness who come in contact with a criminal justice system.”
Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner has called Scott’s death a tragedy.
He fired seven jailers and accepted the resignation of one.
Those fired have applied for reinstatement and one has already won his appeal.
Collin County DA Greg Willis issued a statement saying, " I to share the grand jury’s concern for the treatment of individuals suffering from mental illness, and I pledge to honor Mr. Scott by taking the lead and assembling a working group to look for lessons learned so that this tragic in custody death will not have been in vain,” says Willis.
He also added, “I know they were members of our community who have strong feelings about this case and the grand jury’s decision. To everyone and Collin County, I say please be respectful of each other’s dignity, and please be respectful of our loss. We all have a God-given right to peaceably assemble and be heard, but remember that our laws must be followed and they will be enforced.”
Attorneys who represent the eight jailers accuse Collin County Sheriff Skinner of rushing to judgment when he fired them, saying in a statement:
“Skinner’s rush to fire our clients was nothing more than a frightened politician sacrificing the livelihoods of dedicated public servants for political expediency. Jim Skinner is all hat and no cattle.”
The sister of Marvin Scott the third led a group of around 50 people on a march Tuesday evening from the Collin County Courthouse to the jail.
Civil rights attorney Lee Merritt says a federal investigation could still lead to criminal charges.
“In case after case after case in the state of Texas we disregard the lives of black people, we disregard the lives of people who are suffering from mental health crises, and that is something that we simply do not accept so we reject the conclusions of the grand jury,” said Merritt.
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