A Chicago-area woman found dead in a Texas jail cell in July — and whose case has become part of a national debate about how the police treat African-Americans — committed suicide because family and friends wouldn’t pay her bail, according to a court filing in the ongoing legal battle over her death.
“It is apparent now that [Sandra] 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,” according to a motion filed this week in federal court in Houston on behalf of Waller County, Texas, officials as part of an ongoing legal fightbetween them and Bland’s family.
Bland, 28, was arrested during a confrontational traffic stop in Texas three days before she was found dead in her Waller County Jail cell on July 13. An autopsy report released later that month found Bland used a plastic trash bag to hang herself. Bland’s family has questioned the need for Bland’s arrest and the way she was treated while in jail. They have filed a wrongful death suit against Waller County officials, alleging, among other things, that jail officials were reckless in how they treated her while in custody.
But in this week’s court filing, lawyers for Waller County say that neither Bland’s male friend nor her family was willing to pay the $515 needed to bail out the woman.
While in jail, Bland “attempted to reach [her male friend] several times, but it appeared he was intentionally ignoring her calls,” according to the filing, which seeks to have the suit dismissed. “She also made contact with at least one of her sisters, who advised she not would not bail Bland out of jail. Bland also made contact with a bail bondsman, who in turn made contact with Bland’s mother and possibly other relatives. However, none of her friends and family provided the approximately $515 necessary to bail her out of jail.”
Lawyers for Waller County officials also said in the filing that jail staff did everything by the book, asking Bland if she was currently suicidal. She told them that while she’d tried to commit suicide in the past, she wasn’t currently having suicidal thoughts, according to the filing.
Chicago attorney Cannon Lambert, who represents Bland’s family, said the motion filed this week is premature.
“It is very, very early in this litigation for them to have filed that kind of motion,” Lambert said. “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.”