The Waller County district attorney Elton Mathis and prosecutor Warren Diepraam held a press conference Thursday to discuss preliminary autopsy results for Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old whose jail cell death has ignited a national outcry.
Officials implied that marijuana that was found in Bland’s system via preliminary testing may have contributed to her death by influencing her behavior during the interaction with Texas state trooper Brian Encinia or her alleged decision to hang herself with a plastic bag in her Waller County jail cell.
“THC is a mind-altering substance, if it’s in your body it’s going to impair you,” Diepraam said.
It is unknown exactly where she was or when it may have been consumed, he said, but no marijuana was found in her cell.
Diepraam, who went over pathological findings that included photographs of Bland’s body, said that no second autopsy was ever requested, nor would it be, contrary to previous news reports. Bland’s body has been sent to Illinois, where her family will hold a homecoming ceremony and funeral services this weekend.
Harris County Institute of Forensic Science found no defensive injuries on Bland’s hands, nor any neck structure injuries that would indicate a violent encounter. Instead, Diepraam showed a photo of a clean-looking mark around Bland’s throat. The mark is consistent with suicide because it’s a uniform line, which indicates no struggle, he said.
Bland also had abrasions on her back and shoulder which were consistent with knee on the back during a struggle, but he said he doesn’t know if they were caused by her struggle with Encinia. She also had 30 relatively recent cut marks healing on her left wrist, scarring and scabbing. They were approximately 2-to-4 weeks old, he said.
Officials displayed a photo of what they said was the plastic bag Bland used to hang herself. It was a white bag that had been folded or cut into strip with a loop for the noose.
Diepraam could not answer why Bland, who told jail officials she had considered suicide in the past and apparently had cut marks on her wrists, was not on suicide watch.
When asked why officials chose to release the information about finding marijuana in Bland’s system so early, he said it was in the interest of transparency.
“There’s nothing about this case that’s standard,” he said. “We just want to be open and reveal as much information as possible.”
Waller County D.A. Elton Mathis had leaked the information before the press conference in a text message to the Bland family attorney, Cannon Lambert. According to Reuters, the message read:
“Looking at the autopsy results and toxicology, it appears she swallowed a large quantity of marijuana or smoked it in the jail. This will of course be very relevant in any future criminal or civil litigation.”
No mention of the text was made Thursday.