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No Charges In Death of Norman Hicks, Sr.

Apr 26th, 2012 | Category: Harris County

September 15, 2011 Houston Chronicle

A grand jury declined Wednesday to bring criminal charges against a detention officer who exchanged blows with an elderly man he was trying to subdue in the Harris County jail who later died, the district attorney’s office confirmed.

Prosecutors began presenting evidence to grand jurors last week in the case of Norman Ford Hicks, 72, who died in January from complications of a heart attack triggered by blunt force trauma to the head and a broken nose. His death was ruled a homicide.

The grand jury’s decision comes after months of anguish and speculation among Hicks’ children, who learned shortly before their father died that he had been in an altercation with a jailer.

“I’m still in shock. I still have no closure,” said one of Hicks’ four children, Marie Fields, after the grand jury’s decision. “I don’t feel justice has been done.”

Hicks, a Houston butcher with a history of violence related to mental problems, died in a local hospital Jan. 22 after his family removed him from life support.He was brought there from the Harris County jail on Jan. 16. A homicide investigator told the family he had been in a physical confrontation with a jail employee.

“We are tore up,” said one of Hicks’ sons, Norman Hicks Jr. “I can’t understand with the evidence in front of them they throw out the case.”

Weighing civil suit

Houston attorney Wilvin Carter, who represents the Hicks’ children, said the family plans to discuss whether to file a civil suit against Harris County.

Prosecutors said they could not comment on their presentation to grand jurors or specify the number of witnesses who gave testimony.

“Statutory regulations prohibit me from disclosing what transpired in the grand jury room. However, I can assure you that all relevant evidence was presented to the grand jury,” First Assistant District Attorney Jim Leitner said in a statement. “The members carefully and thoroughly reviewed the witness testimony and documentary evidence, including evidence presented from the Hicks family.”

Carson Joachim, general counsel for the Harris County Deputies Organization, said jailer Chris Pool gave extensive testimony Wednesday to the grand jury about his role in Hicks’ death.

“We are pleased with the decision by the grand jury,” Joachim said. “I believe Chris acted well within his training and experience from with HCSO. The loss of human life is always tragic, and unfortunately from time to time, the men and women in law enforcement are thrust into these situations and they have to make split-second decisions.”

Joachim said his client exchanged blows with the elderly Hicks after the young jailer was ordered to the inmate’s cell to subdue him during a disturbance. Hicks threw a soiled shirt over the jailer’s face, and then hit him and Pool struck back, Joachim said. “He tossed a feces-laden shirt in Chris’ face and simultaneously struck Chris in the face, in the mouth region,” Joachim said. “Chris used his tactics that he was trained in at the academy and the jail school, and struck Mr. Hicks at that time in a defensive posture to protect himself and others behind him.”

‘Unfortunate situation’

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, in a statement, offered his condolences to the Hicks family and called the elderly man’s death “an unfortunate situation for all.”

“However, a complete and thorough investigation was done,” Garcia stated, added that more work has to be done to address jailing of the mentally ill.

“Now the work continues to better serve those who are suffering from mental illnesses and to get them the help they need without them having to become inmates of the Harris County jail first,” Garcia stated.


FBI Special Agent Shauna Dunlap said a review of the case will be made and forwarded to the U.S. Justice Department.


“Now that the local process has taken it course, we will complete our report and do any additional investigation if needed and then forward our report to Justice Department,” said Dunlap, a spokeswoman for the Houston FBI office. “They will review it and make a determination if any federal laws were violated.”



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