Subpoena the Email, Text & Social Media Messages of Hempstead Jail Staff

There is one thing that Waller County DA Elton Mathis can do to break the Blue Wall of Silence I discussed in a post yesterday, and reach a firm conclusion about the cause of Sandra Bland’s death in the Hempstead jail: subpoena the email, text and social messages exchanged among everyone who works at the jail from the time of Ms Bland’s arrival at the jail through two days after her death.[1]  Collect the cell phone records, Facebook, What’s App, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Twitter DMs, Instagram, and whatever other platforms folks use to communicate these days.

Social Media

Social Media

If those records demonstrate that the personnel at the jail communicated with one another not at all about Ms Bland, or only to express concern, shock and/or anger that Ms Bland took her life in their jail, we will learn that she committed suicide.

But if Ms Bland kept up her taunting throughout the weekend, and someone at the jail lost their cool and “throttled” her to “shut her up” (or any other scenario where one of her jailers caused her demise), then at least some of those messages will paint a very different picture.

I do not expect that Mr Mathis will do this.  Indeed, it may not even occur to him.  But if it does occur to him, he will surely be reluctant to pry loose the personal communications of a group of people upon whom he and the court rely to deliver defendants to the courtroom, likely make donations to his re-election campaign, and are otherwise his professional colleagues.


Rather than a reasonably definitive account of what happened to Ms Bland we are likely going to be left with the standard, incomplete picture, which will contain inconsistencies and reflect all too well the fallible nature of these inquests, and the exercise of interests by the parties involved.  And onlookers will read into it what they wish, two profiles looking at one another, or a candle holder.

It need not be that way.


[1] To be perfectly clear, I am not proposing that Mr Mathis subpoena all communications by Hempstead jail personnel.  Only those communications with one another.

About Will H. Moore

I am a political science professor who also contributes to Political Violence @ a Glance and sometimes to Mobilizing Ideas . Twitter: @WilHMoo
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