Venida Browder spent the last years of her life relentlessly fighting for justice for her son, but her lawyer says he believes that in the end, the stress of the situation proved too much for the 63-year-old mother of seven.
Surrounded by five of her six surviving children, Ms. Browder died of complications from a heart attack on Friday at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, according to the NY Daily News. “In my opinion, she literally died of a broken heart,” said attorney Paul Prestia.
Those who knew her described Ms. Browder as a courageous woman of incredible grace and compassion, who never lost optimism that the system could be changed for the better – despite the city failing her son.
Kalief Browder was just 16 years old when he was arrested on suspicion of stealing a backpack and was ultimately held at Rikers Island for three years because his family could not afford to pay his $3,000 bail.
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Video footage from Browder’s time in jail while awaiting trial captured several incidents during which he was beaten by fellow inmates and guards. By the time the charges against him were dropped, the teen had spent a total of 400 days in solitary confinement. Browder’s case sparked nationwide calls for justice and resulted in Mayor Bill de Blasio enacting a law that prohibited placing 16 and 17-year-olds in solitary confinement.
Browder enrolled in Bronx Community College after his release in 2013, but battled depression and suicidal thoughts brought on by his experiences in jail. The day after telling his mother he “couldn’t take it anymore,” Kalief hung himself with an air conditioning cord in his Bronx apartment.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Browder family as they grieve yet another devastating loss.