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Solicitor: Follow-up needed on ‘several issues’ following report on Sutherland’s death

Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 11:24 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said an investigative report on the death of Jamal Sutherland has prompted the need for a follow-up on “several issues.”

Wilson released a statement a day after protesters marched to the solicitors office where they demanded her to take action and bring charges against the two deputies who were seen in body camera footage tasing Sutherland at the Al Cannon Detention Center in January.

The solicitor said on Tuesday that the video in the case is disturbing and she has lived with the sights and sounds of the video for months. She said the exposure of mental health failures is “maddening.”

Wilson said she was grateful for the community’s interest and concern over Sutherland’s death and referenced the activists in Monday’s march.

“I praise those who have engaged in peaceful activism,” the solicitor said. “Your resolve is admirable, and your voices are heard!”

She said if there were to be criminal charges and a trial, the trial would be in a court of law and not a court of public opinion or human emotion. Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano announced on Monday that the two deputies involved in Sutherland’s death investigation were fired.

Sutherland was being taken out of his cell to go to a bond hearing but died while being subdued on Jan. 5, prosecutors said. Sutherland struggled with mental illness, and was brought to the jail by North Charleston police after a fight at a psychiatric facility he was committed to.

In her statement, Wilson referenced the SLED investigation into Sutherland’s death and how she was disappointed and frustrated over the length of time it took to obtain an autopsy report and the completed SLED investigation.

Wilson said in order for the State to hold someone criminally responsible for another’s death, the State must prove unlawful conduct was the proximate cause of death. Wilson said SLED did not offer an opinion on the first issue.

She said it was imperative that a well-qualified expert witness weigh-in.

“All well-meaning people want justice in this case,” Wilson said. “I intend to bring justice to the Sutherland family, and to any suspects in this investigation. To preserve the integrity of the continuing investigation and to honor the rules of ethics for prosecutors, I simply cannot outline all the evidence in this matter.”

“It is my responsibility to analyze the evidence collected and to decide whether the State can prove a criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt,” Wilson continued. “No well-meaning person wants any prosecution to proceed without a thorough and complete investigation and analysis. It would be unprofessional, unethical, and irresponsible to advance a prosecution without all the pertinent evidence. If I were to determine we have a prosecutable case, we will pursue criminal charges. On the other hand, if after analyzing and investigating all the evidence, I were to determine the State cannot prove a criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt, I will owe the Sutherland family and the community a thorough explanation of the obstacles. Regardless of which conclusion I reach, I must perform due diligence and I am doing just that.”

You can read her full statement below.

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