CHICAGO – This week, a grand jury is expected to determine whether or not any criminal charges should be filed in connection with the death of Sandra Bland of Naperville while she was held in a Texas jail cell. Her family's attorneys say the probe and the process are deeply flawed.
"We wanted to make it very clear and plain that we have absolutely no confidence in what we believe is a sham proceeding," said attorney Larry Rogers in a news conference held at his Loop law office Monday.
Attorney Cannon Lambert, Sr. said that grand juries are staged by special prosecutors to pacify the public and deliver pre-determined results. "It's a tool of the prosecutors, and only a tool of the prosecutors," Lambert said.
Neither the public nor Bland's family are entitled to know anything about the proceedings, evidence, or testimony admitted.
"I can't even begin to tell you what is going on, because I myself don't know what is going on," said Bland's mother, Geneva Reed-Veal.
Bland's July 13 death and the circumstances of her detention following a traffic violation drew national attention and debate about racial and cultural factors at play in policing and criminal justice. An autopsy found that Bland committed suicide, but her family maintained that the young woman would never have killed herself. Bland indicated on a jail intake form that she had attempted suicide before.
"We just passed Thanksgiving, and now we are going to go through Christmas," Reed-Veal said. "Sandy's not here, and more than that, we still don't have answers as far as I am concerned."
Bland's family has filed a civil lawsuit against Waller County, Texas, the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas state trooper Brian Encina and two other jail employees who were in contact with Bland in the hours leading up to her death. A trial date for their wrongful death lawsuit has been set for January 2017.
If there was criminal wrongdoing at any juncture in the time between Bland's traffic stop and death, her family and their attorneys predict that the public will never know.
"The whole process, from the secretive nature of it to the restricted nature of the evidence presented to the family, screams of a cover up," Rogers said.
Officials in the Waller County District Attorney's office responded this afternoon by stating that the nature of all grand juries are private, and proceedings are kept from the public in order to protect grand jurors.