Civil rights activists hold news conference after 2 Harris County Jail inmates died last week

Civil rights activist Candice Matthews is holding a news conference on Wednesday after two Harris County Jail inmates died last week. (KPRC)

HOUSTON, Texas – Civil rights activist Candice Matthews is holding a news conference on Wednesday after two Harris County Jail inmates died last week.

Family members of inmates who died will attend as well as the families’ attorney and Quanell X, the Chairman of the New Black Panther Nation.

The inmates were hospitalized with preexisting conditions.

Krish Gundu with Texas Jail Project says she was not surprised about the deaths.

“This has become a pattern, a systematic pattern of neglect,” she said.

Eric Cano, 40, had been charged with murder and booked into jail on July 27, 2022. He had a terminal illness and was taken to Ben Taub hospital on May 27, 2023, according to the sheriff’s office. Cano reportedly died on June 16 at 10:59 p.m.

“He should have not ever been in the jail. He made bond when got arrested unlike the people you see on the news, he was perfect while out on bond. He had no violations,” Attorney Paul Looney said.

Back in May, KPRC spoke to his attorney who argued he should be released to die at home in hospice care because he had a failing liver.

Attorney Looney says he was relieved to hear he passed away.

“He was suffering so much. At the end of life, you hate to say goodbye but it’s also a relief that suffering is over. His was extreme,” Looney said.

Ray Rattler, 56, had been charged with aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon and booked into jail on May 22. He was taken to Ben Taub hospital on June 14 due to deteriorating health. He died on June 17 at 3:14 p.m. No additional information about his medical condition was provided in the news release from the sheriff’s office.

Our Re’Chelle Turner spoke to Rattler’s family over the phone who asked for privacy.

The Texas Rangers investigates all inmate deaths. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office Internal Affairs Division is also conducting an independent investigation to ensure that all procedures were carried out appropriately.

The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences will determine the cause of the deaths. The sheriff’s office said it notified the Texas Commission on Jail Standards about the incidents.

Harris County said there have been eight in-custody deaths in 2023, including the two deaths in June.

Jacoby Pillow died on January 03

Jaquaree Simmons died on February 17

Matthew Shelton died March 27

Robert Terry died on May 16


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About the Author:

Cynthia Miranda graduated from UT Austin and is a proud Houstonian. She is passionate about covering breaking news and community stories. Cynthia previously covered elections, the historic 2021 Texas winter storm, and other news in East Texas. In addition to writing, she also loves going to concerts, watching movies, and cooking with her family.