Accused of Stealing a Backpack, High School Student Jailed for Nearly Three Years Without Trial

By Dianne Frazee-Walker

On the evening of May, 15, 2010, 17-year-old Kalief Browder had no idea his life was about to change. The chain of events that led to Browder’s bizarre life change began when he and his friend were walking through the Bronx coming home from a party and were stopped by police. Browder soon found himself surrounded by a police squad with a spot light blinding him. You would have thought he was being accused of murder, but in actuality he was framed for stealing a back pack.

The police informed Browder and his friend that a Mexican individual claimed they stole his back pack. Browder revealed to the police his personal items in the back pack he carried and insisted he did not steal the back pack. A police officer stepped away to speak with the alleged victim who was sitting in a police car. When he returned he informed Browder the accuser had changed his story to indicate his back pack was stolen a few weeks ago. Apparently, the information was enough to warrant a trip to the Bronx precinct. The police officer promised Browder his visit to the precinct would be short lived, but the nightmare was just beginning.

Browder was interrogated and strongly encouraged to take a plea deal if he wanted to go home soon. Browder adamantly refused to accept a plea bargain and insisted on his innocence. His friend was released, but Browder was retained because he was currently on probation for being present during an auto-theft and accident. Bail was set at $3000, which Browder’s family was unable to post.

Browder was soon on his way to Rikers Island. He was held without bail while the case literally crawled through the system. Browder was continually pressured to plea out, but he didn’t give in because he was innocent. Browder was adamant about getting a trial to prove his innocence, but every time he went before the judge the trial was delayed for various reasons. One of the main reasons for a trial failing to transpire was the overload of cases in the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, which was clogging-up the court system, making it impossible for a short staffed judicial system to deliver. 

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The Suicide of Ariel Castro

By Dianne Frazee-Walker

“Adios diablo, may you burn for 1,000 years, just like you were sentenced,”  read a Blog posted in a Cleveland newspaper after Ariel Castro received a life sentence for  kidnapping and torturing three woman for a decade in his Cleveland home.

There is probably no sentence stringent enough to match the heinous crimes Castro committed.  

After plea-bargaining for life in prison as opposed to the death penalty, Castro decided to take his own life by hanging himself in his prison cell.

Dramatic circumstances surrounding Castro’s conviction cause one to speculate; 

Would this have happened if Castro was on suicide watch instead of protective custody?

What would have brought justice for the three victims Castro tormented for 10 years?

One of the victims, 30-year-old Michelle Knight, who was kidnapped at the age of 20,  sobbingly bore witness during her testimony stating death would have been “so much easier” for her captor.

Fate would have it that Castro was still in control of his victim’s emotions when he made the final decision about his punishment.

But did he have the final say?

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A Life Interrupted

By Christopher Zoukis

Sitting in the old wooden chair, I felt cold.  I had been in this small, stark room inside the McDowell County Jail for twenty minutes, waiting for my attorney.  To many the room wouldn’t be cold, but to someone wearing only a pair of orange scrubs it was.  Today would include yet another visit with my attorney, a routine repeated so many times it was . . . well . . . routine.  So when he entered I was unimpressed.

He extended his hand and I clasped it.  Staring into his eyes I knew this was a formality not extended to all of his clients.  I knew this because I knew some of his clients were neither pleasant nor hygienic.  After sitting down, he divulged the reason for his visit.  I was to sign the plea bargain that had been offered by the U.S. Attorney.  A vice squeezed my chest.  I couldn’t breathe.  My left eyelid twitched wildly as my attorney looked at me with a tender, knowing gaze.  A 22-year-old kid who was in way over his head.

He laid out the deal starting with the good news.  The U.S. Attorney had agreed to drop a charge.  This charge was a bogus one they knew they couldn’t prove.  So far, they were only retracting a lie that couldn’t add any time to my sentence.  I was less than thrilled but still hopeful.

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