Civil rights attorney Lee Merritt arrested in Texas protest

Mar 27, 2023, 3:48 PM | Updated: 3:56 pm

DALLAS (AP) — A prominent civil rights attorney was among a group of people arrested in a Dallas suburb during a demonstration in memory of a Black man who died in a struggle with guards at an area jail.

McKinney police arrested lawyer Lee Merritt and two others on charges of obstructing a roadway during the Sunday protest over Marvin Scott III’s 2021 death in the Collin County jail. Merritt, 40, was also charged with unlawfully carrying a weapon, police said.

Merritt, who’s forged a national profile representing the families of people killed by law enforcement officers, told The Associated Press that he was “unlawfully arrested” while he attended the protests as the Scott family’s lawyer. The attorney said he had been legally carrying a firearm at the time of his arrest, which led to the weapons charge.

Merritt was released from jail Monday. The Collin County district attorney’s office did not respond to a phone message about whether prosecutors would pursue the charges.

The demonstration came two years after Scott, 26, died during a struggle with jail guards following his arrest on a marijuana possession charge. Scott’s family said he was likely in a mental health crisis at the time of his death and a medical examiner found he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Seven detention officers were fired and another resigned over Scott’s death, which was ruled a homicide, but did not result in criminal charges.

Scott’s 30-year-old sister, Lachay Batts, was also among those arrested in the protest. Merritt said being held in the same facility where her brother died was “a really traumatic experience” for Batts.

A McKinney police spokesperson said officers made the arrests after giving “approximately 10 minutes of warnings” to the demonstrators, who included children, to clear the roadway.

Merritt, who and made a failed run for the Democratic nomination for Texas attorney general during the last election, said the third person taken into custody was a photojournalist. He called the arrests “really bad form.”

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Civil rights attorney Lee Merritt arrested in Texas protest