Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis has appointed a committee of attorneys from outside his jurisdiction to review findings in the mysterious death of Sandra Bland.
This committee will review evidence as it continues to be collected, all in an effort to help Mathis sort out the many moving parts of the case.
Mathis made the announcement on Monday, just as the fervor around finding out how exactly the 28-year-old Illinois woman died just three days after a traffic stop in Texas on July 10. Mathis’ office released a toxicology report last Monday, revealing that Bland had marijuana in her system. According to the Chicago Tribune, a pair of experts that reviewed the report for the Associated Press suggested that Bland may have used the drug while in custody.
Mathis said he and the collective of lawyers intend to review “credible evidence and not rumors” according to a report from CBS News. Mathis has much to contend with in that arena, as Bland’s family and supporters are questioning findings that her death was indeed a self-inflicted hanging by way of a plastic trash bag in her Waller County jail cell.
Impacting matters is the dash cam video that caught arresting State Trooper Brian Encinia in action, and the overall aggressive manner in how the officer was moved to handle the escalating situation. In addition to the videos and related evidence available to the public, there has been chatter of Waller County’s racist past with insentience from some that the days of Jim Crow old is still pervasive in the region even in modern times.
Bland, a graduate of Prairie View A&M University, was returning to her alma mater to begin a new position. In a New York Times piece, it was noted that the region has long contended with tension between Black residents and the local police force.
Even Hershel Smith, the constable of the precinct that covers the area where Prairie View sits, has been a victim of the overzealous police in the city of Hempstead. Also telling in the article, Mathis reportedly clashed with Black leadership in the area and even told one Black activist preacher to “jump off a high cliff” in a vulgar text message.
Mathis, who claims to know that Hempstead and Waller County has the reputation of mistreating people of color, claims that the region is not what it once was.