Gov. Greg Abbott on July 22 issued a statement regarding the arrest and death of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old Illinois resident who had driven to Hempstead in response to a job offer from Prairie View A&M University.
On July 10, Bland was pulled over by a state trooper, arrested and placed in the Waller County jail in Hempstead. Three days later Bland was found dead in her jail cell. Local authorities conducted an autopsy and reported suicide as the cause of death. Bland’s family ordered an independent autopsy.
“Our hearts and prayers remain with the Bland family for their tragic loss. The family deserves answers. The Texas Rangers, working in coordination with the FBI, will conduct a full and thorough investigation that will deliver those answers and work toward the ultimate goal of ensuring justice in this case,” Abbott wrote.
On July 21, Texas Department of Public Safety officials briefed state leaders on the investigation. “DPS has been working closely with the family of Ms. Bland during this investigation and the department extends our sincere condolences for their tragic loss,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “It is important that her family has confidence in the efficacy of this investigation, which is why the Waller County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney originally requested investigative assistance from the Texas Rangers; and it’s also why DPS requested the FBI assist in this investigation.”
The DPS posted on its website the state trooper’s dash camera video from the traffic stop. Also, video footage showing activity in the jail at the time of the discovery of the body was widely broadcast.
Court dismisses coercion charge
Texas’ 3rd Court of Appeals on July 24 dismissed one count of a two-count felony indictment handed down in August 2014 by a Travis County grand jury against Rick Perry for actions he took as governor in 2013.
The court threw out the count of official coercion against Perry for demanding the resignation of the head of the state’s Public Integrity Unit, Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, in the spring of 2013 after she was arrested and jailed for drunken driving. Lehmberg apologized for her actions but refused to resign. Perry then vetoed the unit’s $7.5 million in state funding.
Texans for Public Justice, an Austin-based government watchdog organization, filed the original criminal complaints against Perry. The other count, alleging abuse of power, remains pending and could be set for a court date later this year.
Ag chief opposes rule change
A rule change made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in late June lifted a ban on the importation of beef from Northern Argentina and 14 of Brazil’s 27 states.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller recently spoke out against the federal agency’s action because, he said, those areas have a known history of foot-and-mouth disease.
“The U.S. has not suffered from a case of foot-and-mouth disease since 1929, in part because of our nation’s bans against animal and meat imports from countries dealing with the disease,” Miller stated in a July 21 news release.
Ed Sterling works for the Texas Press Association and follows the Legislature for the organization.