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The Brief: July 21, 2015

The death of Sandra Bland in a Waller County Jail cell is being treated as a murder investigation, the county's district attorney said at a news conference Monday.

Jamal Bryant, a Baltimore pastor with the Empowerment Temple AME Church, addresses the press with new information about vide…

The Big Conversation

The death of Sandra Bland in a Waller County Jail cell is being treated as a murder investigation despite a medical examiner's conclusion that it was a suicide.

The county's district attorney, Elton Mathis, made that announcement at a news conference Monday. The Tribune's Sophia Bollag and Terri Langford have more on the developments:

Mathis said he made the determination after talking to Bland's family and to those who saw her last, including the bail bondsman, who was among the last to hear from her alive. 

Bland, 28, was found dead on July 13 inside the Waller County Jail, three days after she had been pulled over by Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Brian Encinia for an improper lane change. She was arrested and taken to the jail on a charge of assaulting a public servant during the traffic stop. ...

"There are too many questions that need to be resolved. Ms. Bland's family does make valid points. She did have a lot of things going on in her life for good," Mathis said.

Mathis also said the dashboard video showing the traffic stop that led to Bland's arrest — in which he said Bland was "very combative" — would be out today.

The Rev. Jamal Bryant, a Baltimore pastor who saw the video with the Bland family's attorney, said Monday that the video showed "not one shot, not one scene of where Ms. Bland ever assaulted police." Bryant also said that Bland began filming her encounter with the officer, who's been reassigned to desk duties.

Trib Must-Reads

Delegation's Members Build, Share War Chests, by Abby Livingston — Newly filed federal campaign finance reports telegraph which federal House members are worried about re-election, which are eager to ingratiate themselves to colleagues in Washington and who might be in legal trouble.

Escape Should Lead to Drug Law Reform, Advocates Say, by Julián Aguilar — Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán's brazen escape last week from a maximum-security Mexican prison prompted anger from U.S. officials. Advocates who want to see changes to drug laws argue now is the time to reassess current policies. 

Slideshow: Prairie View A&M Vigil for Sandra Bland, by Callie Richmond — Roughly 200 people gathered on the Prairie View A&M campus on Sunday to share memories of Sandra Bland, who died in police custody three days after being pulled over for an improper lane change.

Cruz, Perry Tied in National Poll, by Abby Livingston — The two Texans running for president are tied in a new national poll. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry each had the support of 4 percent of registered voters who identified themselves as Republicans.

First Disclosures Offer View of 2016 Texas Money Race, by Patrick Svitek and Ryan Murphy — The first major wave of presidential campaign finance disclosures is offering the fullest picture yet of what role Texas is playing in the 2016 money race. And some of the takeaways may surprise you.

Texas Concedes Case Over Benefits for Same-Sex Couples, by Alexa Ura — Almost a month after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton quietly conceded a case against the federal government over medical leave benefits for certain same-sex couples.

UT System: Hall Doesn't Have Right to Sue McRaven, by Matthew Watkins — The University of Texas System, seeking to dismiss a lawsuit from Regent Wallace Hall against Chancellor William McRaven, says in a court filing that Hall is, in short, suing McRaven "for refusing to violate federal and state privacy laws."

In Texas, Drought is Done, by Kiah Collier — For the first time in more than five years, Texas no longer is in a drought. While less than 3 percent of the state remains “abnormally dry,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, drought has disappeared from every other part of Texas.

Elsewhere

New Details Released in Sandra Bland’s Death in Texas Jail, New York Times

Texas town at center of storm over young black woman's death in jail cell, Los Angeles Times

Political donors flock to PACs, San Antonio Express-News

Perry takes on Trump: this is no “reality show," McClatchy DC

Can Perry stand out in 2016 without his signature swagger?, The Associated Press

Ted Cruz and David Vitter to Target Congressional Health Care, Roll Call

Tom Hicks, Kay Bailey Hutchison among those who helped underqualified students get in to UT-Austin, records show, Dallas Morning News

Witnesses speak against rate changes in $350M cuts to therapy services, Corpus Christi Caller-Times

Texas officials to vote on $1B for water projects, The Associated Press

Tensions flare between Turner, Hall at mayoral forum, Houston Chronicle

Mayoral candidates ratchet up race for GLBT Caucus support, Houston Chronicle

Even in S.A., bilingual teachers in short supply, San Antonio Express-News

Quote to Note

"There’s something unseemly about Cruz following Trump around like a lost puppy, hoping to get his leftovers when he finally flames out."

— U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, taking aim at U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who's refused to criticize 2016 rival Donald Trump for his recent controversial comments

Today in TribTalk

Texas must take the lead on ending corporate welfare, by Bill Peacock — Conservatives in Washington and Texas have it right: Eliminating the Export-Import Bank and most of Texas’ economic development programs is the best way to promote liberty and boost the economy.

News From Home

•    During the 84th legislative session, lawmakers passed open carry and campus carry legislation and voted to make cannabis oil available to epilepsy patients. Find more details on these and other law and order issues on the Texas Legislative Guide.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    The Texas Tribune Festival on Oct. 16-18 at the University of Texas at Austin

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