Group calls for solicitor to recuse herself in Jamal Sutherland death probe

Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 12:30 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 14, 2021 at 4:32 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Racial Justice Network held a news conference Wednesday outside the Ninth Circuit Solicitor’s Office demanding she recuse herself in the investigation into a death at the Charleston County jail.

Jamal Sutherland, 31, died on Jan. 5 while in custody at the jail as detention deputies forcibly removed him from his cell so that he could attend a bond hearing on an assault charge. Solicitor Scarlett Wilson has not yet reached a decision on whether to file criminal charges in Sutherland’s death, saying she is waiting for additional investigations to be complete.

“We believe the solicitor has lost all credibility,” Racial Justice Network President Elder James Johnson said at Wednesday’s news conference.

Johnson provided a copy of a letter he sent to the South Carolina Supreme Court Monday asking Chief Justice Donald Beatty to appoint a new solicitor to take over the Sutherland case.

“Solicitor Wilson has repeatedly stalled on high profile cases over the years including the case of nine members of the Mother Emanuel AME Church murdered in Charleston, South Carolina,” the letter states.

Johnson wrote that the “pattern of recent events leads us to believe that justice is being denied” in the Sutherland case.

Wilson initially said she expected to have the information necessary to determine whether criminal charges could be successfully prosecuted in court by the end of June. But during the last week of June, she said she would delay the decision further, saying she retained a board certified toxicologist to review Sutherland’s autopsy. She also said in a statement that her office had recently obtained additional evidence and conducted additional interviews that are relevant to our use of force expert’s review.

She did not say when a decision on criminal charges would come.

Attorney Mark Peper, who represents Sutherland’s family, said the family did not wish to comment on the news conference.

Wilson’s office released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office released more than 162 gigabytes of information in the case last week and that a great deal of that information still needed to be reviewed.

Wilson said the information consists of hours of videos and hundreds of documents.

Wilson said the officials with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, her office and later the FBI had been requesting the information for nearly seven months. She said her office has already discovered evidence relevant to the investigation.

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