Solicitor Wilson extends timeline for decision on Sutherland in-custody death case

Jamal Sutherland Death Investigation

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Ninth Circuit solicitor Scarlett Wilson on Tuesday announced that she will extend her self-imposed deadline for making a prosecutorial decision regarding the Jamal Sutherland investigation.

Sutherland, who was then an inmate at the Al Cannon Detention Center, died in January during an encounter with deputies.

FULL COVERAGE: JAMAL SUTHERLAND DEATH INVESTIGATION

Wilson is set to determine whether criminal charges will be brought against the two deputies — Brian Houle and Lindsay Fickett — involved in Sutherland’s death.

Wilson provided the following reasoning:

Previously, I notified the Sutherlands and the community that I found that
an autopsy review by Dr. Kimberly Collins and consultation with a use of expert were critical in
this matter. Both Dr. Collins and I found it necessary to retain and consult with a board certified
forensic toxicologist to aid Dr. Collins in her review. To that end, I retained Dr. Laura Labay, a
board certified forensic toxicologist who holds both a Master’s degree and Ph.D. in Toxicology.
It is our understanding that the coroner has requested additional forensic testing which may bear
on these complicated issues for both the first pathologist Dr. Downs and for Dr. Collins. In
addition, within the last week, we obtained additional evidence and conducted additional
interviews that are relevant to our use of force expert’s review.

Solicitor Wilson’s deadline extension has many frustrated with a lack of information including community activist Pastor Thomas Dixon.

“She just said I’m not going to give the public any kind of response until I decide to and that’s totally unacceptable,” says Pastor Dixon.

Activists, community members and others say they feel left in the dark and say the video of Sutherland’s death should be enough to bring charges against the involved deputies.

“And the taxpayers have demanded a response from her,” says Dixon. “There’s an online petition with over 50,000 signatures telling her to charge these two officers.”

Former 9th Circuit Solicitor and Attorney General Charlie Condon says it’s not that simple. He says a full review is needed to determine criminal intent and proximate cause.

“To her credit it’s a very thorough review,” says Condon. “Charges aren’t simply being brought to satisfy anyone’s concerns. They’re being brought to serve justice.”

Condon says the lengthy decision process indicates Solicitor Wilson is grappling with the decision, making every piece of evidence critical in her decision.

“When you have what one would call a “close case”, you would want to only prosecute those that you can convince 12 jurors beyond a reasonable doubt that every element of a crime is met,” says Condon.

She said that the amount of work to still be done precludes her from making an informed decision this week. Wilson went on to say that “both the community and the Sutherland family deserve a thorough investigation,” and the extension is necessary to make that happen.

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