On Tuesday a Texas grand jury declined to indict eight former Collin County Detention Facility jailers in the death of a Black man who died in March.
“This decision means the Grand Jury has cleared the eight former officials of any criminal wrongdoing and they won’t be charged with any state criminal offense,” said district attorney Greg Willis. Marvin Scott III, 26, died at the jail on March 14 after being restrained by jailers.
The charges the former jailers could have faced ranged from misdemeanor assault to murder.
“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,” the grand jury said in a statement. “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.” It’s uncommon for a grand jury to issue such statements.
Of the eight detention officers involved in Scott’s death, seven were fired two weeks after he died, and one other resigned. One officer has since been reinstated and others are seeking reinstatement following the grand jury’s decision.
Attorney Robert Rogers spoke to WFAA in defense of his clients, saying, “What happened here is a tragedy, and I won’t gloss over that fact, but the actions of the jailers were not criminal.”
Officers responding to a disturbance call arrested Scott at a mall in the Dallas suburb of Allen, Texas, on a marijuana charge for being in possession of less than two ounces of the substance. He was transported to a hospital for what police called “strange behavior.” According to the family’s attorney, Lee Merritt, Scott sometimes used marijuana to self-medicate after being diagnosed with schizophrenia two years before.
Scott was then brought to the jail, where he was placed on a restraint bed and fitted with a spit hood. Detention officers also used pepper spray during the restraint. He became unresponsive that night and was pronounced dead at a hospital 10 hours after arriving at the jail.
Scott’s death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner, as a result of the stress from schizophrenia and a restraint or struggle with law enforcement.
Merritt said on Twitter that the family is “extremely disappointed” by the grand jury’s decision and that evidence including unreleased video provides “more than sufficient probable cause” for indictments. He said they would fight for the case to be reviewed by a federal grand jury.
The family viewed the footage in April, although it has not been made public.
In their statement, members of the grand jury also suggested that a task force be formed to study Scott’s death to prevent a similar event from occurring in the future.
“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,” the statement said. “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.”