Waller County prosecutor names committee to review Sandra Bland case

Anthony Mungin came to Hempstead from Houston to sit and hold a sign that reads "What happened to Sandra Bland?" outside the Waller County Jail.  He is one of the doubter, as in he doubts the official version of Bland's arrest and death, and he doubts the investigation is being handled well.

"There's a lot of black people," said Mungin. "There's a lot of people who think the representation so far is weak."

Mungin is not alone. There are plenty of critics and doubters. The Waller County District Attorney knows this and is trying to improve their perceptions. His office released the initial toxicology report on Monday. It shows Sandra Bland had some marijuana in her system at the time of her death. He also announced that he is appointing a panel of independent prosecutors and defense attorneys to watch over the investigation and review the evidence. He says he wants complete transparency.

"That's the consensus of all elected officials here is that we want this county to be an open book," said District Attorney Elton Mathis at a news conference in front of the Waller County Jail on Monday. "For all the information to be shared with any agency that so desires."

Darrel Johnson and Lewis White are the first two appointed to the panel. The lawyers says are working for free and say they are not beholden to anybody. They say they are not afraid to disagree with the official version of events if they feel the need.

"I have no dog in this fight. We're another set of eyes. We are attorneys that are here to take a look at the situation. We will issue our own press releases, have our own news conferences and give our opinion of what's going on in Waller."

Mathis says he hopes to get the case before a grand jury in August.


By MICHAEL GRACZYK
Associated Press

HEMPSTEAD, Texas (AP) - A committee of outside attorneys will assist the Texas district attorney investigating the death of Sandra Bland, the black woman who was found dead in her jail cell three days after a traffic stop by a white state trooper.

The attorneys will have full access to all evidence in the Bland case and the authority to subpoena witnesses, according to two members of the committee, attorneys Darrell Jordan of Houston and Lewis White of Sugar Land, a Houston suburb.

The committee will make recommendations on possible criminal charges to Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis, White said. If Mathis disagrees with them, the lawyers on the panel will have the authority to present their findings to the grand jury reviewing Bland's death, he said.

Bland died in the county jail after the traffic stop for failing to use a turn signal escalated into a physical confrontation. Authorities have said Bland hanged herself at the jail, a finding her family disputes.

"I don't know if we'll ever get an answer to all the questions," White said. "But our job is to get answers. There are going to be answers some people don't like."

Two other lawyers are expected to be appointed soon. Both White and Jordan are black, and will be dealing with a case that has received international scrutiny and questions about whether Bland was treated differently due to her race.

Mathis released an initial toxicology report Monday with findings that Bland had marijuana in her system at the time of her death. He declined to comment on the report, saying a final report was still being prepared.

The Texas Rangers and the FBI are both reviewing the case. Jordan said he hoped to "provide another set of eyes" to the case and credited Mathis for opening up the investigation to extra scrutiny.

"We'll be able to present to the grand jury," Jordan said. "We'll have total access to the evidence."

Mathis acknowledged the ongoing questions about Bland's death and the intense attention it has received, calling on people to await the findings of his office and other agencies involved in the investigation rather than speculation on social media.

Sitting to the side of Mathis' news conference Monday was a single protester holding a sign that read, "What happened to Sandra Bland?"

Mathis said he wanted the committee to help the case move forward based on "credible evidence and not rumors."

"It is also important that the community knows that the case will be reviewed by many sets of inquisitive legal minds that have no agenda other than reviewing the evidence and seeking justice, whatever form that may eventually take," he said.


Associated Press writer Nomaan Merchant in Dallas contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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