Department of Justice won't pursue charges against 2 former South Carolina deputies in the death of Jamal Sutherland

By Amy Simonson and Elizabeth Wolfe, CNNUpdated: Thu, 27 Oct 2022 03:44:47 GMTSource: CNNThe Department of Justice will not pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against two former Charleston,

By Amy Simonson and Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN

Updated: Thu, 27 Oct 2022 03:44:47 GMT

Source: CNN

The Department of Justice will not pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against two former Charleston, South Carolina, sheriff's deputies for their involvement in the in-custody death of Jamal Sutherland, the agency announced Wednesday.

Sutherland, 31, died in January 2021 after deputies "forcibly extracted him from his cell" at the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center in Charleston County, the Justice Department said in a news release.

Sutherland was in jail because of an incident at a behavioral health center in which he was accused of "a misdemeanor offense of simple assault on a nurse staff member," family attorney Mark Peper said at the time. Sutherland was being treated for mental illness at the center, Peper said.

Jail surveillance footage and body-worn camera video released by the Charleston County Sheriff's Office shows deputies pepper spraying Sutherland inside his jail cell and tasing him multiple times.

The two deputies involved in the fatal interaction -- Sgt. Lindsay Fickett and Detention Deputy Brian Houle -- were fired in May 2021.

After considering whether the deputies' use of force amounted to official misconduct, the Justice Department concluded that "insufficient evidence exists to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that deputies willfully violated the federal criminal civil rights statutes."

Prosecutors reviewed information obtained by the FBI and state investigators to determine if there was enough evidence to argue that either of the officers deliberately and intentionally deprived Sutherland of a constitutional right, the release said. Their review included reports, law enforcement accounts, witness statements, training materials, photographs and videos, among other things.

The department also reviewed a report on Sutherland's death compiled by the state Ninth Circuit Solicitor's Office, which detailed why the state declined to charge the officers.

When Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson announced her office would not bring criminal charges against them, she said, "I cannot prove criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt in this case."

Sutherland's mother, Amy Sutherland, told CNN Wednesday, "There is no justice for my son at all."

"I didn't expect anything to be any different than what they did. I don't believe in the justice system anymore like I used to. It's like everyone made the exact same statement right down the line," she said.

"I'm confused," Sutherland said. "I'm really confused how you can see a murder on camera, the coroner can see a murder, and no one is charged with a murder. It's really hard for me."