Black woman motorist found dead in Texas jail: Family seeks justice as different stories unfold

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Family of 22-year-old mother who died while in police custody after car accident demands the truth. The incident raises questions if Texas jails have changed since the death of Sandra Bland.

70 miles south and almost three years since motorist Sandra Bland was found dead in a Waller County, Texas jail cell, another Black woman driver dies while detained.

While in Walker County jail in Huntsville, Texas, Symone Marshall was found unresponsive a little over two weeks into her detainment.

She was rushed to Huntsville Memorial Hospital, but pronounced dead. Reports say that an autopsy revealed that she suffered a seizure, but ultimately passed away due to blood clots that traveled to her lungs. Her death was ruled natural.

The Detroit native was arrest following a car accident in which she was not at fault. According to local law enforcement, Marshall and a female passenger refused to be transported to a nearby hospital following the accident.

However, after further questioning, they were booked for possession of a controlled substance. Marshall is said to have given a false name, along with not have proper identification. The female passenger posted bail the next day, but Marshall could not make the $5,000 bond.

On a GoFundme page to raise money for her burial, Marshall’s family says that they are fighting to bring more attention to her death. According to their accounts, Marshall was a victim of road rage who was then treated like a criminal. Her family says that while in custody, Marshall repeatedly asked to go to a hospital because she did not feel well. She complained of a loss of appetite, too.

According to reports, she was seen by doctor who works in the jails. Contrastingly, Marshall’s family said that she was not treated at all. In their account, jail authorities “refused to take her to a hospital to be evaluated by professional doctors.”

“She suffered in there. She cried every day, begging for them to take her to a hospital,” said Honey Marshall, Symone’s sister who called daily requesting for police take Symone to the hospital. “They wouldn’t release her out of there.”

Her sister also told New York Daily News that Symone’s head “was hurting and she kept blacking out.”

Marshall had just relocated to Texas from Detroit for a fresh start when she was ran off of the road. The car she drove flipped several times and ran into a ditch. She had been detained for 15 days when she was found unresponsive. Her family says that gross neglect killed Symone.

Read Devil at my Door: Family of Korryn Gaines Awarded $37 million

Texas hold’em: Prison profits in the Lone Star State

The death of Marshall has triggered a near memory of Sandra Bland, a Black woman motorist arrested after a routine traffic stop in Waller County, Texas.

After Bland argued with a state trooper when she refused to put out her cigarette, he threatened that he would tase her if she did not comply. She was found dead in a jail cell three days later.

Sandra Bland was found dead in her jail cell July 13, 2015.

Bland’s death was ruled a suicide. Law enforcement said she hung herself with a plastic trash bag.

Black community members openly doubted the results of the investigation, including her family in Chicago. Her death became a critical protest in the Black Lives Matter movement, as Bland was a staunch supporter and activist while alive.

The arresting officer, Brian Encina, was charged for perjury when he stated that he attempted to de-escalate the situation. Eventually, Encina was fired, and the family settled for $1.9 million.

After Bland’s death, the state announced that it would reassess its jailing and detention practices. A comprehensive report from studies could not be located at press time; however, a law was passed in 2017 to reduce the jailing and long-term detention of those who cannot afford to pay court fines, according to a story by The AtlanticAlthough debtors prisons were outlawed, the revenue from courts, detention and arrests are still a cash cow for states, the story revealed.

Another revenue generated from incarcerated people is political power. Inmates become part of the population which can increase the numbers of elected officials in the state.

Huntsville’s jail is cited as one of the counties with a disproportionate prison population. The Prison Gerrymandering Project cited that in Walker County, the jurisdiction in which Huntsville sits, 23 percent of its population is incarcerated—one of the largest incarceration rates in the state. As well, Texas has the second highest prison population after California. 

The Prison Gerrymandering Project argues that prison-populations-used-as-voting power is an affront to the democratic process. On the issue they wrote:

In many rural county and city governments, substantial portions of individual districts consist of incarcerated people, not actual residents. In a number of places, we’ve found elected officials who owe a majority of their clout to prison populations.

While all the circumstances surrounding the death of Marshall are unclear, the family continues to seek answers as they prepare to bury the young mother.

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