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Outside attorneys to aid Sandra Bland death probe: prosecutor

Reuters logo Reuters 7/27/2015
Protesters join hands outside the Waller County Jail in Hempstead, Texas on Friday, July 17, 2015, to protest the death of Sandra Bland, who was found dead in the jail. Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said there were no cameras in Bland’s jail cell to show if the Illinois woman hanged herself in the lockup as a medical examiner has ruled. Her relatives and supporters dispute the finding. © Melissa Phillip/Houston Chronicle via AP Protesters join hands outside the Waller County Jail in Hempstead, Texas on Friday, July 17, 2015, to protest the death of Sandra Bland, who was found dead in the jail. Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said there were no cameras in Bland’s jail cell to show if the Illinois woman hanged herself in the lockup as a medical examiner has ruled. Her relatives and supporters dispute the finding.

CHICAGO - The county prosecutor investigating the death of a black woman at a Texas jail days after her arrest during a traffic stop said on Monday outside attorneys will help with the probe, which likely will go to a county grand jury in August.

Sandra Bland, 28, was found hanged in a Waller County Jail cell days after her July 10 arrest following a minor traffic offense, an incident activists have said is yet another example of police brutality toward minorities.

"There are many lingering questions regarding the death of Sandra Bland," Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis told a news conference.

Lewis White, a former prosecutor and a defense attorney, and Houston attorney Darrell Jordan will lead a review committee in asking the "hard questions," Mathis said.

Mathis said the case should go before a Waller County grand jury in August as planned, as long as the Texas Rangers and Federal Bureau of Investigation reports are completed.

Bland, a former Chicago area resident, was pulled over by white Texas state trooper Brian Encinia near Prairie View, Texas, northwest of Houston, for failing to signal a lane change.

The stop escalated into a verbal altercation after Encinia asked Bland to put out a cigarette and she refused. Bland was arrested and charged with assaulting an officer, a felony. Bond was set at $5,000 in a court appearance that Saturday.

Bland was found hanging in her jail cell on the morning of Monday, July 13 with a plastic trash bag around her neck. An autopsy confirmed an initial finding by a medical examiner that Bland's death was a suicide.

Bland's family has acknowledged she had posted on social media about struggling with depression, but has expressed strong doubts she would take her own life.

In this undated photo provided by the Bland family, Sandra Bland poses for a photo. The family of Bland, who was found dead in her Texas jail cell, assert that she would not have taken her own life, but authorities are pointing to mounting evidence that they say shows she hanged herself. © Courtesy of Bland family/AP Photo In this undated photo provided by the Bland family, Sandra Bland poses for a photo. The family of Bland, who was found dead in her Texas jail cell, assert that she would not have taken her own life, but authorities are pointing to mounting evidence that they say shows she hanged herself.

(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago and David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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