The attorney for the family of Sandra Bland is asking why key witnesses in the case were asked nothing about events inside the Waller County Texas Jail, shortly after the Chicago woman allegedly hanged herself last July.
Attorney Cannon Lambert says audio tapes of interviews conducted with two cellmates, show that a Sheriff’s investigator asked only about Bland’s possible marijuana use, never about the events just prior to her death.
“They didn’t ask about what her interactions with guards were,” he noted. “They didn’t ask about what her emotional state was. Was she crying? They didn’t ask any of those things.”
The tapes, provided as part of an ongoing lawsuit, show that Sheriff’s Lieutenant Heather Sanders spoke with the two female inmates, in total, for less than ten minutes. And she confined her inquiry to questions about possible marijuana use inside the jail.
“At any time did you smell marijuana or anything like that?” Sanders asked 28 year old Alexandria Pyle, who was in the cell across the hall from Bland. “Was she smoking marijuana, talk about having marijuana?”
“No,“ Pyle said.
After several more questions about potential marijuana use, Sanders terminates the interview.
“Ok, that’s all the questions I have,” she says. “Sorry it’s not more exciting than that!”
The process is repeated minutes later with a second inmate named Natasha. Again, Sanders confines her questions to marijuana. Both inmates say they saw and smelled no evidence that Bland was using marijuana during her stay in the jail.
Previously, authorities had revealed that autopsy results showed the presence of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in Bland’s bloodstream.
“It may be relevant as to her state of mind, to determine what happened on the street,” said First Assistant District Attorney Warren Diepraam. He said it was unclear whether Bland ingested marijuana before or after she was jailed.
“We feel like it was a character attack they were engaged in,” Lambert says, noting that the Waller County District Attorney had announced just two days before those interviews were conducted that he intended to treat the probe as if it was a homicide investigation. And he suggested the officer’s questions hardly fit that mold.
“Who last saw Sandy? Who last interacted with Sandy?” he asked. “Did she say she was having difficulty? Did she say she was contemplating hurting herself? Did she say that people potentially were going to hurt her?”
Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, said she continues to have questions about the handling of her daughter’s case, and that the tapes say more about what Waller County didn’t ask of two key witnesses.
“Did you see any officers go by her cell?” she asked. “Did you see any additional interaction? Did she say anything about possibly hurting herself?”
A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 18th, where a judge in Houston will hear Lambert’s arguments for greater discovery in the case, including the original hard drives of jail surveillance tapes, and complete police reports of Bland’s original arrest during a traffic stop July 10.
“Right now, the lawyers for Waller County can’t even tlel me where the original video is,” Lambert said. “That strikes me as unbelievable.”