Family of Jamal Sutherland, Black man who died in South Carolina jail, to get $10M settlement

Original Source: USA Today

Officials agreed Tuesday to pay $10 million to the family of a Black man who died after two sheriff’s deputies used pepper spray and stun guns on him in a South Carolina jail in January.

The Charleston County Council unanimously approved the settlement for the family of Jamal Sutherland, 31, as the country marked the one-year anniversary of the killing of George Floyd on Tuesday. Council Chairman Teddie Pryor said at the meeting he had met with Sutherland’s family and pledged to work on reform.

“We know that no amount of money will bring their loved one back, but I think this starts the healing process,” Pryor said. “This should never happen to anyone ever again. Ever.”

Sutherland was arrested after officers were called to investigate a fight at Palmetto Behavioral Health, a mental health and substance abuse center. He was booked into jail Jan. 4 on charges of third-degree assault and battery.

The next morning, the deputies arrived to take him to a court appearance, then repeatedly tased him after he refused to be handcuffed and leave his cell, according to video released by the county May 13. The deputies repeatedly ordered him to kneel,  and they pepper-sprayed him, video shows.

One deputy put his knee on Sutherland’s back for more than two minutes as he was handcuffed. Sutherland said, “I can’t breathe.”

An hour later, he was pronounced dead. His death brought protests and calls for criminal charges.

An initial statement released on Sutherland’s death said deputies “reported an unresponsive inmate” and notified state police, per standard procedure. The deputies were placed on administrative leave with pay.

Mark Peper, an attorney for the Sutherland family, said that Sutherland’s schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were so severe that he should never have been held in a nonmedical portion of the jail and that the video portrayed a “use of force that was so unnecessary and excessive that there are no words.”

Days after video of Sutherland’s death was released, Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano announced she was terminating detention Sgt. Lindsay Fickett and detention Deputy Brian Houle for their involvement.

“I must weigh the interest of public safety for the community against any incident that creates even the perception of an impairment to the operation of the Detention Center for the safety of all residents, staff and our community,” Graziano said in a statement.

The local prosecutor, 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, said last week her office was investigating to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.

Wilson said she is seeking expert opinions on use of force in a detention setting. She hopes to conclude the investigation by the end of June, local media reported.