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Resource ID: #29047
Subject: Inmate Death
Source: Carter Coyle, Raphael James, Katie Kamin, Jared Kofsky, Nicholas Reagan, Kaitlin Stansell, Rob Way, Lisa Weismann, Thomas Gruel & Jennifer Dale
Affiliation: WCSC-TV
Date: 2021-10-27



For nearly a year, WCSC-TV’s investigative team researched how Jamal Sutherland, a man with a mental illness, died inside the jail in Charleston County, South Carolina, along with what led up to and followed his death. The team immediately submitted a public records request for video footage of Sutherland’s death, but the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office refused to release it. In the meantime, the team researched the deputies involved in the incident, interviewed members of the Sutherland family, and pursued answers about what occurred that day behind bars. Once the footage was finally released, the team analyzed how Sutherland was transported from a facility for people with mental illnesses to the jail on a misdemeanor charge before he was tasered and pepper-sprayed after refusing to attend a bond hearing that he was not legally required to attend. The team also uncovered previous use of force allegations that were made against one of the deputies involved, contrasted what the footage showed with the initial description of the incident from the sheriff’s office, and explored the mental health facility’s past. Additionally, in response to a separate public records request, the team found out that prior to the release of the footage, an analyst working with the sheriff’s office and a facility intended to protect the Port of Charleston after the 9/11 attacks was monitoring the social media posts of local activists concerned about Sutherland’s death. This finding led to another investigation over how a facility that was intended for maritime security was able to become associated with social media monitoring of vocal community members.
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