The Georgia district attorney whose job it was to determine if deputies were criminally liable for the death of a handcuffed woman who fell out of their moving car after they left the door open before taking off has admitted to knowing one of the men at the center of the case.
District Attorney T. Wright Barksdale III confirmed he personally knew Lt. Marlin Primus, one of the Hancock County Sheriff’s deputies who arrested Brianna Grier, a woman experiencing a mental health crisis early on Friday, July 15.
There was another officer who responded to the 911 call with Primus, Deputy Timothy Legette. Barksdale did not confirm he had a professional relationship with him.
Regardless of this connection, he did not see this as a conflict of interest when he was assigned the case and declared the 29-year-old woman’s death was a “tragedy” but not a “crime.”
Barksdale said in the interview about the lieutenant, who is the brother of Hancock County Sheriff Tomlyn Primus, “I know him very well, on a professional level.”
“I’ve never had lunch with him,” he clarified. “I’ve never gone to church with him. I don’t know where he lives. I don’t … I don’t know his wife’s name. So, I want to make sure that that’s clear.”
He also said, “[Primus] would never hurt anyone in a million years”
While friendly-but-professional relationships are common between prosecutors and police officers, there are many that believe the pursuit of justice is sometimes blurred by those associations.
There is an argument for that in this case. Especially since the Georgia Bureau of Investigations said there was negligence on the officer’s part because the door was left open, and the woman was not fastened in a seatbelt despite being handcuffed.
Hancock Sheriff’s Office Deputies Primus and Timothy Legette detained Grier three months ago. The mother of two died from head injuries she sustained after she fell out of the patrol vehicle while she was handcuffed and in the two deputies’ custody. The DA also admits the door had not been shut.
Barksdale says the deputies were ill-prepared to handle Grier during her crisis.
To the Union-Recorder, he said, “This was certainly a tragedy, but there’s no crime here. The real tragedy here is how underfunded our local law enforcement agencies are and how ill-equipped they are to handle the mental health crisis that’s touching every corner of this state and this country.”
According to the DA, when he reviewed the case file provided by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, a report that included the officers’ bodycam footage and the findings of tests on the functionality of the patrol car’s door, he saw nothing that he could present to a grand jury to bring forth an indictment against any of the deputies involved.
“This case will not be presented to a grand jury, because no crime was committed,” Barksdale said. “What happened was a tragedy, but it wasn’t a crime.”
“Based off of the facts, based off of the laws that are on the books, we believe, without any question, no criminal acts occurred,” he continued.
What he believes is the issue is that Georgia’s politicians have not passed legislation that could provide more funding for mental health treatment and support those struggling with mental illness with the criminal justice system. Grier suffered from schizoaffective disorder and was bipolar.
Barksdale said, “My heart goes out to the Grier family and to the two sheriff’s deputies involved in this case, but like I said, I know without question that the real story is how underfunded mental health providers are in this state.”
“And that is a very sad thing,” he added. “These people don’t need to be in county jails; they need to be in a facility somewhere receiving treatment.”
Barksdale shares his thoughts even as the GBI is still investigating the case, but according to Mary Chandler, special agent-in-charge of the GBI Region 6 Office in Milledgeville, the probe will be concluding soon.
Information the GBI has released is as follows: Grier was charged with three offenses after being resistant to the officers when being arrested at her parents’ home. Once placed in Legette’s patrol vehicle, officers handcuffed her but failed to secure her with a safety belt in the back seat.
The door, which only opened from the outside, was not closed properly and as a result, after the deputies took off, she fell out of the unlocked passenger-side rear door.
GBI conducted tests on the vehicle and determined there was no mechanical malfunction with the car and determined one of the officers did not shut the door.
The woman was taken by medical helicopter 100 miles north to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta and died there days later.
Grier’s parents have retained the legal services of Ben Crump to represent them in this case. However, neither the legal team nor the family immediately released a statement regarding the district attorney’s statements.
Crump’s office did release a petition “demanding answers and accountability for Brianna.”
He wrote, “Brianna deserved to live a long and fulfilling life with her family. Instead, she’s gone. Her daughters will have to grow up without a loving mother, and her family is left to pick up the pieces, all due to the RECKLESS disregard of Hancock County, GA, deputies.”
“Her loved ones deserve answers as to what allowed this catastrophic failure that led to her grievous injury – and ultimately, her death,” he continued, saying. “Her family deserves FULL transparency into this very preventable