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No charges in controversial jailhouse death of black woman

Sandra Bland’s family had disputed the coronor’s conclusion that she died by suicide.

A GRAND JURY declined to press criminal charges over the controversial death of a black woman found hanged in a Texas jail cell, prosecutors said.

Sandra Bland, 28, was discovered dead in her cell in July, three days after being pulled over for failing to signal a lane change and getting into an argument with a state trooper.

Bland’s family has disputed the coroner’s conclusion that she died by suicide, insisting Bland was happy about starting a new job and had no reason to take her own life.

Special prosecutor Darrell Jordan told reporters late Monday, however, that “the grand jury did not return an indictment” in connection with her death.

“There are other issues the grand jury is still considering,” Jordan added, emphasizing that charges could still be pressed against the trooper who pulled Bland over.

A dash cam video of the July 10 arrest fuelled suspicions that Bland was mistreated.

It shows a state trooper getting angry after Bland refused to put out her cigarette, then drawing his Taser and shouting “I’m going to light you up” after she refused to get out of the car.

The case blew up amid heightened racial tensions and a national debate over police tactics in the wake of a series of high-profile incidents of African-Americans being killed by police in disputed circumstances.

Bland’s family has filed a civil suit in an attempt to force the county and individuals involved to take responsibility for their role in her death.

“Right now, the biggest problem for us is the entire process,” her mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, told reporters.

“It’s the secrecy of it all… to not have my council be privy to any of this evidence that’s being presented, I simply can’t have faith in the system that’s not inclusive of my family.”

Bland was an activist in the Black Lives Matter movement, which grew out of protests sparked by the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and cases such as that of Freddie Gray, who sustained a fatal spinal injury in a Baltimore police van.

Jordan said prosecutors have approached Bland’s family in order to discuss the grand jury process.

Many US jurisdictions rely upon a grand jury to determine if there is sufficient evidence to merit criminal charges.

The purpose is to act as a buffer between prosecutors and the public and grand juries are meant to act as independent investigators with the power to seek additional evidence.

Since grand jury proceedings are held in secret without the presence of defence lawyers and almost always return an indictment, they are sometimes seen as a rubber stamp for prosecutors.

In response to the announcement, US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders posted on Twitter that he thought the United States had a “very broken criminal justice system.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind that she, like too many African-Americans who die in police custody, would be alive today if she were a white woman,” he said.

- © AFP 2015.

Read: The Texas woman who died in a jail cell was threatened with a Taser by police>

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