What to Know
- Eight detention officers on duty when Marvin Scott died while in custody will not face state criminal charges after being no-billed by a Collin County grand jury.
- Seven detention officers were terminated and one resigned for violating policies after Marvin Scott's death; one officer reinstated after appeal.
- Collin County Medical Examiner ruled the man's death was a homicide due to restraint.
Tuesday's announcement from the Collin County grand jury means the eight former officers have been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing and they won't be charged with any state criminal offense.
Scott, who is Black, was arrested at the Allen Premium Outlets in March for the possession of fewer than two ounces of marijuana, a misdemeanor. Scott had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and while at the Collin County Jail, according to Sheriff Jim Skinner in March, he began to "exhibit some strange behavior" which prompted detention officers to secure him onto a restraint bed.
Officers used pepper spray and attached a spit mask to Scott's face. At some point, he became unresponsive and was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The Collin County Medical Examiner's Office ruled Scott's death was a homicide, saying the cause of death was, "fatal acute stress response in an individual with previously diagnosed schizophrenia during restraint struggle with law enforcement" and that "the manner of death is listed as homicide."
Seven of the detention officers were terminated for violating sheriff's office policies and procedures; an eighth detention officer resigned while under investigation, the sheriff's office announced in April. Six of the detention officers appealed their terminations through the civil-service process and on Friday, April 23, the employment of one of those officers was restored by appeal.
Marvin Scott III
"This case is a tragedy for all involved, first and foremost for the family and friends of Mr. Scott. For a parent to lose a child, is a loss that's profound, permanent, and unfixable. I ask everyone to join me in sending the Scott family prayers of comfort, solace, and strength," said Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis on Tuesday.
The grand jury also issued a statement about the incident recommending a county-wide working group be convened to study and "find the best solutions for the treatment of individuals with mental illness who come into contact with the criminal justice system."
The family's attorney, Lee Merritt, said in March the arrest of Scott was "inappropriate" and that he was experiencing a mental health crisis at the time of his arrest.
On Twitter Tuesday, Merritt said Scott's family is "extremely disappointed" in the grand jury's decision to not bring charges forward in the case and that they look forward to a review by a federal grand jury.
"The evidence (unreleased video, spit-hood, OC spray, policy violations & a ME conclusion of homicide, provides more than sufficient probable cause for indictments. Marvin Scott’s family looks forward to a review by a Federal Grand Jury of his in-custody death," Merritt said. "The failure of prosecutors to secure indictments in this matter reflects a trend in Texas of undervaluing the lives of African American’s suffering mental health crisis."
Zach Horn, the attorney representing the fired detention workers, issued the following statement after learning the grand jury's decision:
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Marvin Scott III. We are thankful that the Collin County Grand Jury put in the time and effort to evaluate this case on facts, evidence, and the law instead of Twitter hashtags and Facebook gossip. Our clients followed every one of Jim Skinner's policies and procedures on March 14, 2021. Skinner's rush to fire our clients was nothing more than a frightened politician sacrificing the livelihoods of dedicated public servants for political expediency. Stakeholders all around Collin County are beginning to learn what many current and past Collin County Sheriff's Office insiders already know: Jim Skinner is all hat and no cattle. We now look forward to turning our attention to seeking reinstatement for those clients interested in returning to public service."
The sheriff's office, due to pending civil service hearings related to the case, declined to comment Tuesday.