PORTSMOUTH, Va. – A request for a special grand jury to be appointed to the Jamycheal Mitchell case was denied by all of the judges of the Portsmouth Circuit Court on Friday.
The motion was filed by Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales on Wednesday.
In their one-page order denying the motion, the judges said “the Commonwealth’s Attorney has not provided any reasons to impanel a special grand jury,” and “the matter at hand has been investigated by several professionally staffed independent entities and appears to be the subject of an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice” that “the Court is of the opinion that the citizens of Portsmouth would not have any additional expertise, special competence or proficiency that would further contribute to the investigation surrounding the death of Jamycheal Mitchell in the Hampton Roads Regional Jail.”
Mitchell, a mentally ill man, was 24-years-old when he died in a jail cell at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail on August 19, 2015. Family members claim Mitchell literally withered away for four months, eventually dying of wasting syndrome.
Mitchell was arrested in April 2015 for stealing $5 in food from a Portsmouth convenience store, and was awaiting a bed at a mental health hospital thanks to an order from a judge.
However, after Mitchell’s death, an investigation by a state health agency discovered that order never made it into the right hands. Instead, investigators discovered the order sat in a file drawer for weeks, and was only rediscovered five days after Mitchell died.
VSP investigators were brought in to see if any criminal charges should be filed in Mitchell’s death. In March, additional allegations were made about Mitchell’s death, according to the Commonwealth’s Attorney. It’s not clear what the allegations are.
In a release from the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, the office points out that Virginia Code does not require the Commonwealth to “provide reasons” in a motion to empanel a special jury. They further say the collateral investigations into Mitchell’s death do not play a role in the Commonwealth Attorney’s criminal investigation. And in a final point, the office says the court’s reasoning that special grand jurors would have no “any additional expertise, special competence or proficiency” is misguided.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office has filed a motion to reconsider.