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“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial…”

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I’m sure some of you have read Jennifer Gonnerman’s extraordinary story about Kalief Browder, who was arrested and on the most threadbare of evidence charged with a minor theft. He was held at Riker’s Island, sometimes in solitary confinement and sometimes subject to horrible abuse, for three years without trial.

There’s no way for this story to have a happy ending, but there could be better and worse ones. You’ve probably anticipated that Browder’s case falls into the latter category:

Last Monday, Prestia, who had filed a lawsuit on Browder’s behalf against the city, noticed that Browder had put up a couple of odd posts on Facebook. When Prestia sent him a text message, asking what was going on, Browder insisted he was O.K. “Are you sure everything is cool?” Prestia wrote. Browder replied: “Yea I’m alright thanks man.” The two spoke on Wednesday, and Browder did seem fine. On Saturday afternoon, Prestia got a call from Browder’s mother: he had committed suicide.

Almost everything wrong with American criminal justice in one story: ginning up baseless charges based on particularly unreliable eyewitness testimony; prisons being run as torture camps; not only denials of basic due process rights but a hopelessly clogged system that relies on the vast majority of the accused to waive their right to a public trial and has various means of punishing people who won’t play ball. And, remember, this is a story of New York City — this is not just a red state phenomenon by any means.

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