Kalief Browder’s death by suicide this weekend is an American tragedy
Kalief Browder, 22, hanged himself with an electrical cord this weekend. He was 22. He had been suffering from extreme depression after spending three years in custody at Rikers Island awaiting trial for a crime he did not commit. He spent two of those years in solitary confinement during which he was beaten several times by guards. He was finally released after the charges against him were dismissed. His death is an indictment of the broken criminal justice system for juveniles in New York City.
Browder and a friend were arrested by police on May 15, 2010, as they were walking home from a party. They were accused of assaulting a man and stealing his backpack despite an absence of any evidence to support the charges. The man who reported the crime returned to Mexico without leaving a forwarding address sometime while the case was pending. The prosecutor who eventually moved to dismiss the case told the court that they could not proceed to trial without the victim. At this time, it is unclear how long the prosecution knew the witness could not be located. We do know, however, that the prosecutor agreed to reduce the two felony charges to misdemeanors and recommend a sentence to time served, Browder would plead guilty. Browder, who had consistently claimed innocence, rejected the offer. Several weeks later, the case was dismissed.
This case is awful.