Saturday, July 25, 2015

Waller County releases Sandra Bland autopsy report

By Sophia Bollag, The Texas Tribune

Waller County officials have released the autopsy report for Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old African-American woman found dead in the county jail on July 13.

The report made public Friday confirms what officials have already said about the results of the autopsy — that the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences found the injuries to Bland’s body indicative of suicide, not a violent struggle. Assistant Medical Examiner Sara Doyle ruled Bland’s death a suicide by hanging, according to the autopsy report.

Bland was found hanged to death in her cell at the jail three days after she was arrested in connection with assaulting a public servant during a July 10 traffic stop by a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper. Her death has sparked outrage in Texas, the nation and worldwide for what many see as the latest case of white police harassment of a black citizen.

The autopsy report describes a “uniform” ligature mark on Bland’s neck that is not consistent with what one would expect to find after a violent struggle, said Warren Diepraam, a Waller County prosecutor who briefed the media on some autopsy findings Thursday.

The autopsy found no injuries to Bland’s hands, internal neck structures, eyelids or mouth. Such injuries are usually present when a person has been strangled in a violent struggle, Diepraam said Thursday.

However, the probe into Bland's death is being conducted with the rigor and breadth of a murder investigation, Elton Mathis, Waller County's district attorney, said Monday at a news conference. The investigation will include forensic DNA and fingerprint testing of the plastic bag Bland appears to have used to hang herself, Mathis said.

Also on Friday, the Texas attorney general's office released Waller County's custodial death report, which provides the most precise details about Bland's arrest and jail processing.

Jails and law enforcement agencies in Texas are required to file reports on anyone who dies after being taken into police custody.

The report states that at the time of Bland's arrest she did not appear intoxicated. The report, a standard form that that Waller County officials completed, asked: "If death was an accident or homicide, who caused the death?"

The answer from Waller County: "Not applicable; cause of death was suicide, intoxication or illness/natural causes."

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

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