Texas grand jury declines to indict COs who restrained schizophrenic man who died

"Our clients followed every one of [the sheriff's] policies and procedures," wrote an attorney for the COs

By Emerson Clarridge
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

COLLIN COUNTY, Texas — Some of the eight Collin County detention officers who were fired after an inmate died in March following an encounter with them at a jail may seek to return to similar jobs after a grand jury determined on Tuesday that the case did not merit indictment.

The grand jury concluded that the jailers should not be charged with a state crime in connection with the death of Marvin Scott III, 26, while he was in custody of the Collin County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff Jim Skinner speaks at a press conference in March regarding the investigation into the in-custody death of Marvin Scott III.
Sheriff Jim Skinner speaks at a press conference in March regarding the investigation into the in-custody death of Marvin Scott III. (Screengrab/Facebook/NBC DFW)

The officers restrained Scott to a bed, pepper-sprayed him and covered his face with a spit mask at the Collin County Detention Facility, according to the New York Times. Scott was pronounced dead at a hospital.

The Collin County Medical Examiner's Office determined that the cause of Scott's death was fatal acute stress response in an individual with previously diagnosed schizophrenia during restraint struggle with law enforcement.

Allen police had arrested Scott, who lived in Frisco, on suspicion of possession of marijuana earlier on the day that he died.

Zach Horn, an attorney representing the former detention officers, wrote in a statement that Sheriff Jim Skinner had improperly fired them.

"We are thankful that the Collin County grand jury put in the time and effort to evaluate this case on facts, evidence and the law instead of Twitter hashtags and Facebook gossip. Our clients followed every one of Jim Skinner's policies and procedures on March 14, 2021. Skinner's rush to fire our clients was nothing more than a frightened politician sacrificing the livelihoods of dedicated public servants for political expediency."

His attention would turn toward seeking reinstatement for officers who were interested in "returning to public service," Horn wrote.

Skinner on April 1 fired seven of the officers. An eighth detention officer resigned while under an investigation that concluded that the officers violated sheriff's office policies and procedures. Six of the officers appealed their terminations through the civil-service process. On April 23, the employment of one of these officers was restored in the internal appeal portion of the civil-service process.

Collin County Criminal District Attorney Greg Willis wrote in a statement that the "case is a tragedy for all involved first and foremost for the family and friends of Mr. Scott. For a parent to lose a child, including an adult child, is a loss that's profound, permanent and unfixable. I ask everyone to join me and sending the Scott family prayers of comfort, solace and strength."

The grand jury issued a statement recommending a countywide working group be convened to study the treatment of people with mental illness who come in contact with a criminal justice system.

Scott was exhibiting signs of a mental health crisis when the officers entered his cell to restrain him, Lee Merritt, an attorney representing Scott's relatives wrote on Tuesday on Twitter.

Scott's family looks forward to review by a federal grand jury of his death, Merritt wrote.

"Failure prosecutors to secure indictments in this matter reflects a trend in Texas of undervaluing allies of African-Americans suffering mental health crisis," Merritt wrote.

(c)2021 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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