Kalief Browder’s Mother ‘Literally Died of a Broken Heart,’ Says Lawyer

By Sameer Rao Oct 17, 2016

The mother of a teen whose three-year incarceration without trial prompted national outrage died this past weekend. 

A lawyer for Venida Browder, mother of Kalief Browder, told the New York Daily News yesterday (October 16) that she died from heart attack complications on Friday (October 14). She was 63. 

"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," said attorney Paul Prestia. "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."

Browder grew into an advocate for justice and reform after her then-16-year-old son was imprisoned at New York’s infamous Rikers Island jail in 2010 on suspicion of stealing another teen’s backpack. The younger Browder refused to accept a plea and admit guilt for a crime he didn’t commit. But his family could not afford to post bail to free him until his trial, so Kalief waited three years in the prison before the charges were eventually dropped. He spent 400 days in solitary confinement, and video evidence from Rikers shows that Kalief endured brutal beatings from both guards and other inmates. Controversy around Kalief’s ordeal prompted New York City mayor Bill de Blasio to pledge reforms that would prevent minors from spending long stretches in jail before trial. Kalief committed suicide last year after several failed attempts.

His mother’s death comes less than two weeks after she appeared on a panel with Shawn "Jay Z" Carter, who announced an upcoming documentary series about her son.

(H/t The Hollywood Reporter)