Courts

'Bad Dream': Marvin Scott III’s Family Not Ready to Give Up After His Death in Jail

Marvin Scott III's family and attorney Lee Merritt spoke at a press conference following the release of the video depicting his death
Marvin Scott III's family and attorney Lee Merritt spoke at a press conference following the release of the video depicting his death Steven Monacelli
click to enlarge Marvin Scott III's family and attorney Lee Merritt spoke at a press conference following the release of the video depicting his death - STEVEN MONACELLI
Marvin Scott III's family and attorney Lee Merritt spoke at a press conference following the release of the video depicting his death
Steven Monacelli
Standing in the lobby of Collin County Courthouse, LaSandra Scott didn’t hold anything back. Her son Marvin Scott III had been “killed by his jailers,” she said. “They smothered him to death.”

For months, Collin County officials had refused to release the video of her son’s death in custody. But on Friday, the video was made public, weeks after a grand jury decided to not charge the correctional officers who restrained and maced the 26-year-old Black man in the moments before he died.

Some 120 days have passed since his death on Mar. 14, but the Scott family struggled to hold back tears during a press conference on Monday. For her part, Scott didn’t sugarcoat her response when asked how her family was holding up. “We’re not doing good,” she said. “It feels like a bad dream.”

Police officers had picked him up for marijuana possession outside a shopping outlet in Allen, and as his jailers restrained him, he suffered a mental health crisis.

The Collin County Medical Examiner’s office later ruled it a homicide caused by “fatal acute stress response in an individual with previously diagnosed schizophrenia during restraint struggle with law enforcement.”

“Instead of acting with compassion, instead of having a mental health professional speak to him in the jail, he was dealt with brutality and treated violently,'' Lee Merritt, the family’s attorney, said during the press conference.

Since his death, protesters have rallied in Plano, Allen and elsewhere, demanding that the officers involved be charged. But their protests have met backlash. In May, during a march in Plano, an angry motorist burst from his car and aggressively confronted demonstrators, swatting at one woman’s phone. He’s since been charged with assault.

At a protest in Allen last month, right-wing counter-demonstrators showed up, armed and clad in military-like gear. They accused those who had come out to rally for Marvin Scott III of seeking to “burn down” the city.
click to enlarge LaSandra Scott said she wants the world to know what happened to her son in Collin County Jail. - STEVEN MONACELLI
LaSandra Scott said she wants the world to know what happened to her son in Collin County Jail.
Steven Monacelli

The newly released video spans 41 minutes. In the first 10 minutes alone, correctional officers strap Scott to a restraining table, pepper spray him and drape a spit hood over his head.

Less than 20 minutes in, he stops moving. Most of the video’s second half shows medical responders attempting to save his life. In the end, they wheel him out of the room.

Though the release of the video may have reopened emotional wounds for the Scott family, they are glad that it is now available to the public. “We want the community to know the truth,” LaSandra said.

Merritt tipped his hat to Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner, who, he says, agreed to release it when the investigation came to an end.

“We take our hats off to Sheriff Skinner,” Merritt said. “We want to thank him for doing the right thing.”

Previously, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had backed the Collin County prosecutor’s office each time it rejected requests for the video to be made public.

"We want the community to know the truth." - LaSandra Scott

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“But the statute allows for the sheriff’s office to release the video at the completion of their investigation,” Merritt said. “Sheriff Skinner agreed that he would, so he did.”

But not everything has been made public. The Allen Police Department still hasn’t released bodycam footage of their interactions with Marvin. “Allen PD and their behavior need to be reviewed,” Merritt told the conference. “They’ve blocked the release of that video.”

Allen PD didn't respond to a request for comment.

Merritt insisted that throughout the two hours of Marvin’s time in custody, the authorities missed several opportunities to change course and deal with his mental health crisis. As the video progresses, the attorney added, “We see him slowly deteriorate.”

Meanwhile, Merritt said, the Attorney General’s Office has also blocked the release of crucial information, such as the autopsy report, and that they intend to seek more information through the power of subpoena once they file a civil suit.

Both Merritt and LaSandra Scott say something has gone wrong in the course of the investigation and grand jury process, even if don't know what exactly was presented during the sealed proceedings.

“The grand jury invited the family to a review,” Merritt said. “They didn’t give us exact parameters, but they understand something has gone horribly wrong.”

LaSandra, though, didn’t mince words. “When the jury does not see what’s happened here as a crime, something’s wrong with the system,” she said. “I don’t believe there was enough evidence presented at the grand jury. Even a child could see this was a horror movie.”

But they’re not ready to give up on the case. As the press conference came to an end, Merritt and the Scott family walked into the Collin County Courthouse. “We’re going to meet with the prosecutors to discuss the review,” Merritt said.
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Steven Monacelli has been contributing to the Dallas Observer since 2020. He regularly covers local social movements and occasionally writes about food.
Contact: Steven Monacelli