January 2017 trial date set for Sandra Bland wrongful-death suit

HOUSTON -- A federal judge has set a 2017 trial date for a wrongful death suit filed by the family of a black woman who died in a Texas jail cell three days after her arrest during a contentious traffic stop.

U.S. District Judge David Hittner on Thursday set Jan. 23, 2017, as the trial date for the lawsuit filed by the Sandra Bland's family. The family seeks unspecified damages from the Texas Department of Public Safety, the state trooper who arrested her, Waller County and two jailers.

A grand jury is considering whether to issue criminal indictments. Attorneys in the civil suit told Hittner they had little information to suggest when the jury will decide.

A hearing on Thursday lasted for a little more than an hour, with several issues are at stake -- mainly which agencies could be immune from this lawsuit and whether or not information gathered in the criminal investigation can come into play here.

Protesters packed the courtroom to show support for the Bland family and show that they, too, want to know what happened to Sandra Bland. Bland's family came to Houston for the hearing as well.
Bland's family's attorneys say they need evidence presented in the criminal investigation for their arguments in this civil lawsuit. The attorney for DPS and Trooper Encinia argues both are immune from this lawsuit.

"I want all of you to know Sandy was more than a hashtag," explained her mother, Geneva Reed. "That's what I want everybody to know. Sandra Bland was more than a hashtag. And we will continue fighting for justice for here."

Bland was arrested for assaulting a trooper after she balked at getting out of her car.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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