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Woman’s death a potent reminder of flaws in justice system

Texas readers may have heard about the recent case involving Sandra Bland, a woman who died in her jail cell after she was arrested for refusing to cooperate with a police officer’s investigation of an alleged failure to signal for a lane change. Whether the officer suspected she was intoxicated or high isn’t known, but that has not been the focus of the case.

The video of the arrest, released this Tuesday, shows a Texas state trooper attempting to pull her out of her vehicle and threatening her with a stun gun. The audio indicates that, after Bland is brought out of the vehicle, she continued to protect the officer’s handling of her wrists and head, which she says was knocked into the ground. 

Authorities are saying that the woman’s death was a suicide, and that she hung herself with a plastic garbage bag, but that claim has been questioned by critics. Although administrative leave for officers is typical in such situations, the trooper who handled the case was reportedly placed on leave for violating certain police procedures and the Department of Public Safety’s courtesy policy. In particular, the officer’s basis for attempting to arrest the woman has been questioned.

A big issue in this case is: how is it that authorities allowed this to happen? The Waller County Sheriff’s Office has admitted that state rules concerning jail training and monitoring of inmates were violated, and the FBI is investigation the case.

The case is an important reminder that police officers do make mistakes in the investigation of criminal cases. Criminal suspects do have rights that deserve to be protected, and those who face criminal charges in cases where the investigation contained illegal elements should always work with an experienced attorney to make sure they have an advocate to protect them.

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