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Civil rights attorney Ben Crump: ‘We won’t be well-behaved victims’ after Jamal Sutherland’s death

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 4:26 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 19, 2021 at 6:53 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A prominent Civil Rights attorney who represented the family of George Floyd demanded criminal charges in the death of Jamal Sutherland, who died while in custody in the Charleston County jail.

Attorney Ben Crump spoke to reporters surrounded by members of Sutherland’s family Tuesday outside the office of Solicitor Scarlett Wilson to demand the two former Charleston County detention deputies who were present when Sutherland died will be prosecuted.

Sutherland died on the morning of Jan. 5 after becoming unresponsive as detention deputies forcibly removed him from his cell so that he could attend a bond hearing on an assault charge. Crump referred to video of the incident, saying detention deputies used Taser guns on Sutherland 10 times.

“And at some point, it just becomes reckless, reckless, reckless, no matter how you look at it and it is enough to have probable cause to be charged with involuntary manslaughter,” Crump said.

Wilson announced in July that her office would not file charges against Detention Sgt. Lindsay Fickett and Detention Deputy Brian Houle.

“So, we’re here to tell the district attorney we won’t be well-behaved victims,” Crump said. “No, we won’t shut up. We won’t be quiet. We’re gonna continue to come back. We’re going to continue to demand that they bring charges. We’re going to continue to call on the Department of Justice to come and open an investigation on the [Charleston County Sheriff’s Office]. Look at everything, every aspect of everybody who had anything to do with Jamal Sutherland not being able to live on this earth.”

Crump said they will continue to say Sutherland’s name, leading a brief chant of “Jamal Sutherland.”

“And we will say his name at election time,” Crump added.

“I understand the frustration that some may have with my decision,” Wilson said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon. “I will not stand in the way of a review by the South Carolina Attorney General or the United States Department of Justice. In fact, I invited the Department of Justice to investigate this matter in April of this year. I provided my report to the public at large, to the Department of Justice and to our state Attorney General.”

Wilson said while she stands by her decision, she welcomes the review of other prosecutors.

SPECIAL SECTION: Jamal Sutherland Death

Sutherland’s mother alleged Wilson decided from the start that no one would go to jail in connection with her son’s death.

“Scarlett Wilson could have done so much more, but she chose the first second…the first second of his murder, she already chose that nobody was going to jail,” said Jamal’s mother Amy Sutherland. “Jamal was still murdered. No crime. Big punishment. They took his life. So, for the rest of my life, I’m going to fight until somebody is punished for my child’s death.”

“We look forward to holding everybody in this chain of events accountable,” attorney Carl Soloman, who is representing Sutherland’s family, said. “Jamal deserves full justice.”

Sutherland had been arrested the night before at a mental health facility after a fight between two patients. Authorities said Sutherland, who was not involved in the original fight that prompted the facility to contact the North Charleston Police Department, became agitated after police arrived and was accused of assaulting a staff member.

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.

The legal team also planned to hold a rally Tuesday night at 6 p.m. at the Alfred Williams Community Center in North Charleston.

Crump represented the family of George Floyd, the Black Minnesota man who died during an arrest by Minneapolis Police in May 2020 after four Minneapolis police officers arrested him for allegedly trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill at the food market. The officers held him down on his stomach in the street while he was handcuffed. A white officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes even as Floyd said he could not breathe.

Floyd’s death sparked global protests against racism and police brutality.

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