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Group rallies for charges in Jamal Sutherland’s death

Published: Jun. 21, 2021 at 11:44 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 6:18 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The mother of a man who died in custody at the Charleston County jail joined a group rallying Monday afternoon to demand criminal charges. Jamal Sutherland died in the Charleston County jail in January.

Amy Sutherland, Jamal’s mother, spoke at the noon rally outside the Ninth Circuit Solicitor’s office where the Racial Justice Network repeated a demand for criminal charges to be filed in connection with the 31-year-old’s death.

“I am angry. Everybody else might not be angry. I’m angry,” she said.

Jamal Sutherland, 31, died in January while in custody at the Al Cannon Detention Center.
Jamal Sutherland, 31, died in January while in custody at the Al Cannon Detention Center.(Provided)

She claims the sheriff’s office lied about what happened in the minutes leading up to Sutherland’s death on the morning of Jan. 5.

“During the time of his first getting into [jail], Jamal was never given a phone call,” she said. “No family member knew where he was at.”

She also alleged an attempt to cover up what happened when the family was initially told they could not view bodycam footage of detention deputies forcibly removing Sutherland from his cell. It was while he was being removed that he became unresponsive and died.

“We were told we would not understand what was on the tape,” she said. “What was there not to understand? What was there not to understand about his death?”

She said she has since watched the tape of the incident four times.

“But through it all, listen, through it all, my son was not thinking of his murder,” she said. “He was thinking about Jesus. He was saying, ‘Hallelujah.’ Jesus was always on my child’s mind. So as you lied on him, Jesus came to get him.”

Since then, two deputies who were working to remove him from his jail cell so that he could attend a bond hearing have been terminated from the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office.

But no criminal charges have been filed in the case.

SPECIAL SECTION: Jamal Sutherland Death

Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said last month she was awaiting further information from an ongoing investigation to determine whether she felt criminal charges could be successfully prosecuted.

Wilson has said she expects to have the information she needs to make the decision at the end of this month.

The Sutherland family and the Racial Justice Network said their faith in the solicitor’s office is waning and they say they’re not alone.

“The trust has been shaken in the Black community by this solicitor, by the county police department, and also by SLED and also by the coroner,” said Elder James Johnson, the president of the Racial Justice Network. ”We have no faith in these anymore, and until this is resolved we will never have faith in these four agencies.”

During Monday afternoon’s news conference, Sutherland’s mother and the Racial Justice Network said Wilson and other agencies investigating his death have not been transparent about their work, and that charging the two former deputies should be a no brainer following the release of video from inside the jail showing the deputies tasing Sutherland nine times in his cell.

They also took aim at Charleston County Coroner Bobbi Jo O’Neal and her office for initially listing Sutherland’s manner of death as “undetermined.” O’Neal announced last week she had changed it to “homicide” but that that designation does not necessarily mean a crime was committed.

“The coroner ruled on Jamal’s death “unknown,” Amy Sutherland said. ”She knew from minute one because I saw the tape, you saw the tape, and Jamal told us about the tape. He literally told us on those tapes what you were doing to him. It was not an accident.”

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