Kalief Browder’s Mother Dies Of Heart Attack
Very sad news. Venida Browder, the mother of Kalief Browder, died Friday at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx of complications from a heart attack. The news was confirmed by her lawyer, Paul Prestia.
Venida’s son, Kalief, was just 22 when he killed himself after spending three horrific years in Rikers Island. In 2015, he hanged himself with an air conditioning cord in his Bronx home.
Earlier this month, Jay Z announced that he was producing a documentary about Kalief’s life. Venida, along with members of Kalief’s family, were in attendance. Here’s footage of the press conference with Jay Z, Spike TV and Venida.
Venida’s attorney said of her passing,
She was a woman of incredible grace and compassion who tirelessly fought for justice for her son Kalief and who championed the civil rights of others in our city. But the stress from this crusade coupled with the strain of the pending lawsuits against the city and the pain from the death were too much to for her to bear. In my opinion she literally died of a broken heart.
As previously reported, Browder was arrested at age 16, in May 2010, while walking to his home on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. Browder, charged with second degree robbery, was on probation for a previous arrest and was unable to make $3,500 bail as a result. Maintaining his innocence, he refused to take a plea bargain that would have released him. The case was eventually dismissed and Browder was released in June 2013 after numerous postponements of his case and 31 hearings.
For two of those years, Browder was held in solitary confinement or administrative segregation. The exposure of his case became the impetus for proposed reforms in the New York City criminal justice system.
In June 2015, Browder committed suicide by hanging himself. The conditions of his detention were widely seen as having caused his mental condition and five or six prior attempts at suicide while incarcerated, so much so that six days after his death, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy invoked Browder’s experience in his opinion regarding an unrelated case.
The lawsuit alleging violation of Browder’s rights under the Speedy Trial Clause of the U.S. Constitution continues on behalf of his family, despite his death.
On January 25, 2015, President Barack Obama wrote an criticizing the “overuse” of solitary confinement in American jails. The president based his arguments largely on Browder’s experience.