Solicitor delays decision on charges in Jamal Sutherland death

Published: Jun. 29, 2021 at 2:28 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2021 at 5:10 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Ninth Circuit Solicitor’s Office will not make a decision this week on whether to file criminal charges in the death of a man at the Charleston County jail.

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said she would not make a prosecutorial decision in the case of Jamal Sutherland this week.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Wilson said she felt an autopsy review performed by Dr. Kimberly Collins and consultation with a use of force expert were “critical” in reaching a decision. She said both she and Collins “found it necessary to retain and consult with a board certified toxicologist” to aid in the review.

“To that end, I retained Dr. Laura Labay, a board certified forensic toxicologist who holds both a Master’s degree and Ph.D. in Toxicology,” she said.

Wilson also said she understands the coroner requested additional forensic testing in the case.

“In addition, within the last week, we obtained additional evidence and conducted additional interviews that are relevant to our use of force expert’s review,” she said.

Wilson said both the community and the Sutherland family “deserve a thorough investigation and that is exactly what we are providing.”

She had previously said she expected to have the information she need so she could decide whether criminal charges would be viable by Wednesday.

SPECIAL SECTION: Jamal Sutherland Death

Sutherland died on January 5 at the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center around 10:30 a.m., according to the Charleston County Coroner’s Office. His death came less than 14 hours after he was booked into the jail on a misdemeanor charge.

He died after becoming unresponsive while detention deputies forcibly removed him from his jail cell so he could attend a bond hearing.

Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano initially placed the two deputies who were present at the time of Sutherland’s death, Detention Sgt. Lindsay Fickett and Detention Deputy Brian Houle, on administrative leave. She fired them in May, about a week after the release of video recorded inside the jail that showed Sutherland being removed from his jail cell. The video footage included Sutherland being tased numerous times.

The Charleston County Coroner’s Office said a forensic autopsy showed the cause of death as “excited state with adverse pharmacotherapeutic effect during subdual process.” The coroner initially said the manner of death is currently “undetermined” as the investigation into Sutherland’s death remained open and active.

But earlier this month, Mark Peper, who represents the Sutherland family, released a copy of an amended death certificate that had been revised to list the manner of death as “homicide.”

Since then, Sutherland’s family and activists groups have staged protests to demand criminal charges in Sutherland’s death.

A judge approved a $10 million settlement for the Sutherland family that listed Charleston County, the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office and the City of North Charleston as defendants.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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