Houston mother fights for justice one year after son dies in Harris County jail custody

A year after his death, Jacilet Griffin says she’s still trying to figure out what happened to her son who died in Harris County Jail custody.

Griffin says on Dec. 22. 2021, 31-year-old Evan Griffin Lee was arrested in the Arcola area while walking home from a neighborhood store and sent to jail. Deputies say he had a warrant for his arrest - a felony charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. It's a charge the family still has many questions about.

After months of trying to get help for him, Evan's mother says she received a call from Ben Taub Hospital on March 18, 2022, that her son needed emergency surgery.

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"They told me he needed surgery from head trauma. There was blood trapped between his brain and skull," said Griffin. She was allowed to see him four days later when he was deemed brain-dead by doctors.

Pictures at Saturday's rally showed the man in a hospital bed, in an orange inmate jumpsuit while hooked up to a ventilator. His mother says he was also handcuffed.

"I saw him handcuffed to the bed, and the staff told us he was going to be escorted to the morgue. I didn't want that," said Griffin. Lee remained in the hospital for an additional 12 days while his organs were donated to those in need.

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The initial sheriff's office report given to FOX 26 stated Lee was hospitalized for possible food poisoning symptoms. Officials told the family this past December his death has been ruled by the Texas Rangers as a homicide. They hope to hear more from the Harris County District Attorney's office soon.

Lee is one of 28 deaths reported at the jail for 2022. Four deaths have already been reported this year.

After a failed state inspection, a new plan to tackle issues at the jail was approved by county commissioners this week which includes body-worn cameras for all staff, a new detention captain, and a family coordinator for inmates.

State legislators are taking it a step further.

House Member Ron Reynolds announced House Bill 3434, a measure specifically for Harris County, calling for the state to conduct thorough studies and investigations into each death reported at the facility.

"Mrs. Griffin I promise you, as Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, that is one of my top legislative priorities is to get that bill, not just heard, but passed," said Reynolds. "We have to do something so that this doesn't continue to happen in Harris County, the State of Texas, or this country.

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It’s another piece of artillery for Evan’s mother, who says she won’t stop fighting until things truly change in the facility.

"This is 2023. We should not be dealing with the same thing we dealt with in the 1800s," said Griffin.

U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee also spoke at the rally. She says she's speaking with the Department of Justice about providing additional assistance for the Harris County jail and a federal civil rights investigation.