A 22-year-old man who spent three years in a New York jail -- despite never being charged with a crime -- killed himself Saturday.
Kalief Browder was 16 when he was arrested in 2010 for allegedly stealing a backpack in New York City.The teen's family was unable to raise the $10,000 bond to release him from Rikers Island, and he spent three years awaiting trial at the prison, where according to some media reports he was beaten by officers and other inmates and held in solitary confinement for 400 days.
Browder, whose case was profiled in 2014 in The New Yorker, always maintained his innocence. He would not accept a plea deal and said he wanted to go to trial to prove his innocence.
According to the magazine, Browder attempted suicide more than once during his confinement. Though Browder's case was eventually dismissed in 2013, the teen said he was scarred from the ordeal.
"People tell me because I have this case against the city I'm all right," he told the magazine. "But I'm not all right. I'm messed up. I know that I might see some money from this case, but that's not going to help me mentally. I'm mentally scarred right now. That's how I feel. Because there are certain things that changed about me and they might not go back."
Browder tried to kill himself again, six months after his release from prison, and was reportedly prescribed psychiatric medication after becoming increasingly depressed and paranoid.
Browder's case received widespread publicity in April when The New Yorker released leaked security footage from inside Rikers Island, showing Browder being beaten by a guard and, in a separate incident, up to 10 gang members. Browder received support from support from rapper Jay Z and talk-show host Rosie O’Donnell and his case prompted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to ban solitary confinement for 16-and 17-year-old inmates.
On the night before he hanged himself at his family's home Saturday, Browder told his mother, "Ma, I can't take it anymore," the New York Daily News reported.
In an interview Sunday with the Los Angeles Times, Browder's lawyer, Paul V. Prestia, said the teen's harrowing ordeal in jail for three years with no trial led to his suicide.
"I think what caused the suicide was his incarceration and those hundreds and hundreds of nights in solitary confinement, where there were mice crawling up his sheets in that little cell," Prestia said told the newspaper. "Being starved, and not being taken to the shower for two weeks at a time ... those were direct contributing factors. ... That was the pain and sadness that he had to deal with every day, and I think it was too much for him."
Jennifer Gonnerman, who profiled Browder's case for The New Yorker, reported he hanged himself with an air conditioning cord at 12:15 p.m. Saturday at his family's Bronx home.
Browder had a lawsuit pending against New York City at the time of his death.