Jamal Sutherland’s mother says ‘Justice was denied’ on decision to not file charges in son’s death

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 2:37 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 26, 2021 at 10:53 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Jamal Sutherland’s mother said “Justice was denied” in Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson’s decision not to file criminal charges against two Charleston County deputies in her son’s death, and pushed state leaders to pass laws to better protect the mentally ill.

“We only know that two people got away with murder,” Amy Sutherland said during a press conference on Monday afternoon. “You tortured my child.”

Amy Sutherland and her family said they were very disappointed with the decision not to prosecute and had hoped charges would be forthcoming.

Wilson held a news conference earlier on Monday afternoon, saying Sutherland’s death was wrong and that it should not have happened. But she said she could not bring criminal charges against former Charleston County Detention Sgt. Lindsay Fickett and Detention Deputy Brian Houle because she would not be able to prove criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt.

The family said the deputies were not blameless even if they were following protocol.

“Everybody knows at the end of the day what is right and what is wrong,” said Sutherland’s brother who was also in attendance at the press conference.

Amy Sutherland said her son should never have been in the jail in the first place.

“You killed my child and I’m going to talk about it until the day I go,” Amy Sutherland said.

The family along with their lawyer, attorney Mark Peper, called on state leaders to pass excessive force laws and wanted accountability in the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office.

“Let’s make sure moving forward that we do everything in our power to change the law and we do everything in our power to support those with mental illness,” Peper said.

You can watch the full press conference below.

SPECIAL SECTION: Jamal Sutherland Death Investigation

Sutherland, 31, died in custody at the Al Cannon Detention Center on Jan. 5, after becoming unresponsive while being forcibly removed from his cell so he could attend a bond hearing on a misdemeanor assault charge.

Wilson said the officers were doing what they were trained to do, criticizing policies and procedures within the Charleston County jail.

Jamal Sutherland, 31, died on Jan. 5 while in custody at the Charleston County jail.
Jamal Sutherland, 31, died on Jan. 5 while in custody at the Charleston County jail.

Amy Sutherland had long called for criminal charges in her son’s death in the months since video showing the incident was released. She participated in news conferences and protests outside the solicitor’s office to demand justice for her son.

Late last month, she questioned the use of force deputies used to make Sutherland attend a bond hearing.

“Who was harmed by Jamal not going to bond? Jamal! So if he was the only one who was going to be harmed, why did you harm him?” she said on June 29.

Wilson herself echoed a similar sentiment at her news conference Monday afternoon.

“Jamal Sutherland wasn’t going to hurt anyone in that jail cell,” Wilson said. “He was there by himself. He wasn’t a danger to other inmates. He wasn’t a danger to anyone else, but they decided, the administration decided that it was so important that he go to a hearing where we all know, he likely would have gotten a [public recognizance] bond and been released.”

Meanwhile, the FBI has a related pending investigation into Jamal Sutherland’s death at the Charleston County jail, Special Agent Don Wood confirmed Monday.

He said the FBI would not be represented at Wilson’s news conference and the agency would not provide “any correspondence between the FBI and any other entity related to our investigation.”

Wilson confirmed at her news conference that she reached out to the Department of Justice in April asked them to review the case for any potential civil rights violations.

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