Collin County

Marvin Scott Family Weighs Options After Grand Jury Decision

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A day after a grand jury cleared eight Collin County detention officers of any wrongdoing, questions remain about what's next and when video from inside the jail will be released.

"The Department of Justice can come in and intervene, they can perhaps see if some federal charges are going to be perused criminally, that would be the family's option on the side," said Daryl Washington, a civil rights attorney not associated with this case.

"There are civil remedies where the family could file a lawsuit on behalf of Marvin's estate as well as the family's wrongful death claims, but again that's monetary damages nothing makes the family whole like seeing the person that took their kid's life having to be held accountable for it, just like any other citizen would be held accountable if they took somebody's life," said Washington.

Marvin Scott III died on March 14th while in custody at the Collin County Jail. He was arrested at the Allen Premium Outlets for 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.

The sheriff said 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.

On April 1, Skinner announced he fired seven of the detention officers for violating the sheriff's office policies and procedures leading up to the death of 26-year-old Marvin Scott III; an eighth detention officer resigned while under investigation, the sheriff's office said.

The Collin County Medical examiner said the 26-year-old's cause of death was "fatal acute stress response in an individual with previously diagnosed schizophrenia during restraint struggle with law enforcement."

His death was ruled a homicide, which is why some were confused as to why the officers were not indicted, but the term has a different definition for coroners and medical examiners.

"Sometimes it's misleading to the public because when you see, 'homicide' on an autopsy report, most people are going to just say, 'I knew it, they wrongfully took this person's life,' but unfortunately that term, when you see it on an autopsy report is not the same," explained Washington.

According to the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME), the term 'homicide' means the death at the hand of another or deaths due to the hostile or illegal acts of another.

In the NAME 'Guide for Manner of Death Classification' it states:

Homicide occurs when death results from a volitional act committed by another
person to cause fear, harm, or death. Intent to cause death is a common element but is not required for classification as homicide (more below). It is to be emphasized that the classification of Homicide for the purposes of death certification is a “neutral” term and neither indicates nor implies criminal intent, which remains a determination within the province of legal processes

Meaning a medical examiner's classification doesn't imply criminal intent, that is determined during the legal process.

After days of reviewing evidence, including video from inside the jail, the grand jury said in a statement it did not find probable cause existed to charge anyone with a state criminal offense. Meaning, the case will not go to trial.

"There's a very high probability that these police officers are going to get their jobs back because they're out there attorneys are going to now are you listen, they were not indicted for a crime," said Washington.

Lee Merritt, the attorney representing Scott's family, said they are "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 grand jury in Collin County issued a statement 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."

Washington said he's seen too many people die while in custody due to mental health and said something needs to change.

“We have just seen this happen to very often people who are suffering from mental illness, end up dying so I think it's time now that municipalities, police departments, politicians realize that there's a serious problem and it all boils down to training. When you are dealing with somebody who's mentally ill or dealing with an illness. There should be someone that has the experience and the training that can make sure that this person does not end up dead," said Washington.

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