Solicitor: More time needed to probe Black man’s jail death


CHARLESTON, S.C. — The South Carolina prosecutor investigating the January jail death of a mentally ill Black man said Tuesday that she needs more time to decide whether to press criminal charges in the case.

New evidence and additional interviews gathered in the past week on the death of Jamal Sutherland have led Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson to extend her investigation, Wilson said in a statement.

Sutherland, 31, died in the Charleston County jail shortly after deputies forced him to the ground and repeatedly used stun guns and pepper spray on him when he refused to leave his cell for a court appearance. He had been booked the day before on a misdemeanor charge, after officers arrested him while investigating a fight at a mental health and substance abuse center. His death gained national attention after county officials released video of the incident months later.

Two deputies involved in the case, Lindsay Fickett and Brian Houle, have since been fired. Protesters in Charleston have called for Wilson to charge the deputies with murder or recuse herself from the case.

In her Tuesday statement, Wilson said she needed more time after retaining both a pathologist and a forensic toxicologist to review the coroner’s autopsy report. Additional forensic testing by the coroner also needs to be factored into the review.

“Because these outstanding items are necessary for our experts’ reviews, and our experts’ opinions are critical in my analysis, I will not make a prosecutorial decision this week,” Wilson said. “Both the community and the Sutherland family deserve a thorough investigation and that is exactly what we are providing,” Wilson said.

Wilson had previously said she would decide whether to file charges by the end of June.

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