A Texas grand jury declined to indict eight jail workers for the death of a black man who was strapped down to a bed and pepper sprayed while wearing a spit hood.
Marvin Scott, 26, was arrested in Collin County on March 14 on a drug-possession charge and started exhibiting ‘strange behavior’ while he was in police custody, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Scott became unresponsive and was taken to a local hospital where he died after jail workers strapped him to a restraint bed then pepper sprayed him and put him in a spit hood. His death was ruled a homicide in April.
The grand jury declined to indict the eight jail workers who were involved on a number of charges, the Collin County District Attorney’s Office said in a press release.
However, the grand jury also released a rare public statement addressing the death and calling for a review of Scott’s death and how people with mental illness are treated in the criminal justice system.
Marvin Scott, 26, was arrested in Collin County on March 14 on a drug-possession charge and started exhibiting ‘strange behavior’ and died while he was in police custody
A Texas grand jury declined to indict eight jail workers for the death of Scott – a black man who was strapped down to a bed and pepper sprayed while wearing a spit hood
The grand jury wrote it hopes Scott’s death ‘will not be in vain’ and recommended that ‘a work group be convened’ to address how people with mental illness are treated in the criminal justice system
‘We, the Grand Jury of Collin County, Texas, wish to make a statement and give our recommendations regarding the in-custody death of Marvin Scott III,’ the grand jury wrote in its statement.
‘After careful consideration of the applicable law and all the relevant facts, we find that no probable cause exists to charge any person with a criminal offense related to the death of Mr. Scott. Accordingly, we have issued a no-bill for each of the eight detention officers involved.’
The grand jury statement continued: ‘This case was a tragedy foremost for Mr. Scott and his family, but also for his friends and our entire community. We would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Mr. Scott for the terrible loss you have suffered. We hope you can someday find peace.’
The grand jury wrote it hopes Scott’s death ‘will not be in vain’ and recommended that ‘a work group be convened as soon as practicable to study the events of March 14th for lessons learned in an effort to avoid any similar future tragedy.’
‘We recommend that this work group consist of a diverse group of Collin County community leaders, criminal justice and law enforcement stakeholders, local hospitals, and mental health providers,’ the grand jury wrote.
‘The goal of this work group should be finding the best solutions for the treatment of individuals with mental illness who come in contact with the criminal justice system.’
The grand jury then addressed citizens of Collin County and asked them to ‘respect’ each other and their opinions and wrote: ‘We hope and vigils, demonstrations, or protests remain peaceful.’
The grand jury reviewed evidence including video of Scott’s death and witness testimony before determining that the jail workers would not face criminal charges, officials said.
It was not immediately clear if the Collin County Sheriff’s Office would be releasing the footage now that the grand jury has declined to indict the jail workers.
The jail workers who had faced possible criminal charges included: Andres Cardenas, Alec Difatta, Blaise Mikulewicz, Rafael Paradez, Justin Patrick, James Schoelen, Christopher Windsor and Austin Wong.
The grand jury released a rare public statement addressing the death and calling for a review of Scott’s death and how people with mental illness are treated in the criminal justice system
Lee Merritt, the attorney representing Scott’s family, responded to the grand jury announcement on Twitter on Tuesday
In the press release, District Attorney Greg Willis declared he would be taking the lead in forming the mental health work group requested by the grand jury.
‘I too share the Grand Jury’s concern for the treatment of individuals suffering from mental illness, and I pledge to honor Mr. Scott by taking the lead in assembling the work group to look for lessons learned so that his tragic in-custody death will not have been in vain,’ Willis said.
He added: ‘I know there are members of our community who have strong feelings about this case and the Grand Jury’s decision. To everyone in Collin County, I say please be respectful to each other’s dignity, and please be respectful of our laws. We all have a God-given right to peaceably assemble and be heard, but remember that our laws must be followed and they will be enforced.’
Lee Merritt, the attorney representing Scott’s family, responded to the grand jury announcement on Twitter on Tuesday.
‘Marvin Scott’s family is extremely disappointed the GJ failed to bring charges in this case,’ Merritt wrote. ‘The evidence (unreleased video, spit-hood, OC spray, policy violations & a ME conclusion of homicide, provides more than sufficient probable cause for indictments.’
He added that the Scott family ‘looks forward’ to a review by a federal grand jury for possible violations of federal law.
‘The failure of prosecutors to secure indictments in this matter reflects a trend in Texas of undervaluing the lives of African American’s suffering mental health crisis,’ Merritt wrote.
Scott’s death came nine months after the murder of George Floyd and sparked aa wave of protests in North Texas.
Scott, who Merritt said suffered from schizophrenia, was arrested on a drug-possession charge when officers claimed they found him sitting next to a small amount of marijuana at an outlet mall, the Allen Premium Outlets.
Collin County medical examiner Dr. William Rohr had ruled his death a homicide and declared in a preliminary autopsy report that Scott had died from a ‘fatal acute stress response in an individual with previously diagnosed schizophrenia during restraint struggle with law enforcement,’ The Dallas Morning News reported.
Seven jailers were fired after an internal investigation and an eighth resigned, though one of them has successfully appealed the decision, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Texas grand jury declines to indict 8 jail workers for the death of Marvin Scott