On Sunday, March 26, McKinney PD arrested well-known civil rights attorney Lee Merritt during a protest in memory of Marvin Scott III, a black man who died in custody at the Collin County jail in 2021.
Along with Merritt, McKinney police arrested two others for obstructing U.S. Highway 380: photojournalist Shelby Tauber and Scott’s sister Lachay Batts. In addition to the unlawful protest charges, Merritt was charged with unlawfully carrying a weapon.
Merritt is a renowned civil rights lawyer who represented families of Black Americans killed by law enforcement including the families of Atatiana Jefferson, Botham Jean, Jordan Edwards and Marvin Scott III.
Scott, who was 26 years old at the time of his death, was a Black man diagnosed with schizophrenia who was arrested in 2021 for possessing a small amount of marijuana — a misdemeanor.
While in custody, Collin County jail cameras showed jailers restraining Scott, using pepper spray and covering his head with a hood. That night Scott became unresponsive and was later pronounced dead at the hospital. Scott’s death was ruled a homicide by the Collin County medical examiner’s office and numerous protests followed the event.
According to Merritt, Scott was suffering from a mental health crisis and that in previous encounters with law enforcement, he had been taken to facilities to receive treatment instead of being arrested.
Merritt promoted Sunday’s demonstration on his social media and encouraged people to show up for a “March for Mental Health” in Scott’s honor.
According to a press release from McKinney PD, officers were dispatched to a report of around 20 people blocking 380. When they arrived, officers gave protestors 10 minutes of warning before arresting Merritt, Tauber and Batts for failing to follow orders to leave the roadway.
After being released on Monday, March 27, Merritt held a brief press conference where he said he was not blocking the road and was present at the demonstration as a legal observer, walking along the sidewalk. Merritt added that the only time he entered the road was under the permission of one of the McKinney PD officers to warn protesters that the arrest would be made at which time officers proceeded with the arrest.
Merritt argued that the arrest is in violation of the Sixth Amendment that provides the right to counsel which was being criminalized with his detention on Sunday afternoon.
In a post on his Instagram account, Merrit said he will challenge every false charge in a court of law.