Police Murder Yet Another Young Black Man, This Time By Suicide (VIDEO)

In 2010, police locked a 16-year-old boy up in one of our nation’s notorious prisons without a trial for a minor crime he said he didn’t commit. Now Kalief Browder is dead by his own hand.

For three years, Browder’s guards and fellow inmates at New York City’s infamous Rikers Island Jail subjected him to non-stop torture and abuse. These cruelties included beatings, starvation and 400 days of solitary confinement in a dank, rodent-infested cell. Throughout his ordeal, Browder insisted he was innocent and demanded a trial. As reported by Addicting Info back in October, the judges kept moving up the trial date while the prosecutors kept pressuring him to plead guilty.

In 2013, a judge finally dismissed the case and set Browder free. Unbowed, but deeply traumatized and broken, Browder tried to pick up the shattered pieces of his life. He got his GED, went on to community college, and sought psychiatric help for his nightmares, suicidal feelings, and other trauma symptoms. He sued the city and shared his harrowing story with the media in hope of inspiring change and sparing others his ordeal. Browder also lived with his parents and had the full love and support of his family and friends. Alas, Browder couldn’t un-see what he’d seen or un-feel what he felt. On Saturday, he pulled out his air conditioner and hung himself with the cables.

When the police took custody of Browder, they said they’d release him after questioning. Instead, they basically kidnapped him. And what crime had Browder allegedly committed? He was accused of stealing somebody’s damn backpack and his family was unable to come up with the ridiculous $10,000 bail the judge set for their son.

As a sad and angry Stephen A. Crockett Jr. writes in The Root:

The 400 days of solitary without a trial broke his innocence and stole his youth. The true thieves that night in 2010 were the police who stopped Browder on a New York City street. That was kidnapping. The young man taken that night from his neighborhood would never return.

There was a crime here. One perpetuated by a legal system that sees black men as objects for prison; police who see young black men and women as thugs who must have done something (see McKinney, Texas); correction officers who don’t see teens as children, but as hardened criminals.

This is sad. We’ve just lost a promising young man who had shown amazing courage: Browder refused to plead guilty under pressure few of us could withstand; and then he filed his lawsuit and talked to the media knowing that meant reliving those brutal three years over and over again. Some may say his suicide’s a weakness, I see it as Browder refusing to accept a world that’s hell-bent on destroying him and other young black men and women like him.

Furthermore, America’s jails are full of people like Browder who are unjustly jailed because their loved ones are too poor to post bail. As Randa Morris from Addicting Info writes in her article about John Oliver’s exposé on the appalling abuses of our bail system:

On the surface, bail is supposed to be a type of ‘surety bond’. The bail system is supposed to require accused people to put up of something of value, which would hypothetically serve as an assurance that they will show up for court.

In reality, the system is nothing but a way for people with money to buy their way out of jail. At the same time, people who don’t have money are kept behind bars, not because their crimes are more severe, but solely because they don’t have the money to buy their way out of jail.

So, since Republicans running Congress keep going on and on about the U.S. Constitution, we need to ask them these four questions:

  1. What happened to the accused being presumed innocent until proven guilty?
  2. What happened to Browder’s constitutional right to a speedy trial, as per the Sixth Amendment?
  3. What happened to our constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment, as per the Eighth Amendment?
  4. How are your drastic budget cuts undermining our nation’s judicial system?

Browder’s ordeal sounds like something that would happen in some third world country controlled by some evil, psychopathic dictator, not in America. It’s yet another example of how we destroy people of color and snuff out the promise of their youth. NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio and a handful of others are leading the way with judicial reforms. Yet so many of our leaders do nothing. Or, worse, are fighting aggressively to keep our system exactly the way it is.

Democracy Now reports on Kalief Browder’s life and tragic death.

Here’s the video with the report on Browder killing himself after being traumatized by three years at Rikers Prison without a trial from Democracy Now (with video footage from HuffPo Live and an interview with Jennifer Gonner, who wrote extensively about Browder’s ordeal in The New Yorker).

Featured image: Video screen grab/ Democracy Now/HuffPo Live.