Justice Dept. will not pursue federal charges against deputies in Sutherland death
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The United States Justice Department on Wednesday announced they will not pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against two former Charleston County deputies for the death of Jamal Sutherland.
Sutherland died on Jan. 5, 2021, after being forcibly extracted from his cell at the Charleston County Detention Center.
Prosecutors at the Justice Department say they reviewed evidence obtained by the FBI and state investigators to determine if the force used against Sutherland violated any federal laws with a focus on a federal criminal rights statute that prohibits certain types of official misconduct. Prosecutors also reviewed the evidence from the incident and the Charleston County Solicitor’s Office’s public report on Sutherland’s death, including the force and medical analyses in the report.
Justice Department spokesman Derek Shoemake said after review, “prosecutors determined insufficient evidence exists to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that deputies willfully violated the federal criminal civil rights statutes.”
“This decision is limited strictly to an application of the high legal standard required to prosecute cases under federal civil rights laws; it does not reflect an assessment of any other aspect of the incident that led to Sutherland’s death,” Shoemake said.
Under federal criminal civil rights laws, prosecutors must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that an officer willfully deprived an individual of a constitutional right. The Justice Department said accident, mistake, fear, negligence or bad judgment is sufficient to establish a willful federal criminal civil rights violation.
Prosecutors said the review of the incident has now been closed without federal prosecution and said the decision was limited to the legal standard required to prosecute cases under federal civil rights laws.
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