A Mother’s Pain in the Two Years Since Ramarley Graham’s Death

Constance Malcolm says she maintains a thread of hope for the possibility of justice in the death of her son, an unarmed 18-year-old who was killed by police in New York.

Posted: 01/17/2014 10:23 AM EST

Constance Malcolm says that the nearly two years since the death of her son, Ramarley Graham, have been deeply painful, a near nonstop nightmare. More than anything, what has kept her going is the possibility that there might one day be some verdict that will give her family a sense of justice.

“These last two years have been a period of great disappointment,” she said in an interview with BET.com. “We’re trying to be optimistic with the possibility that the federal government might get involved. If the federal government doesn’t take this case, it will send the wrong message, not just to us, but to the entire country.”

Indeed, the federal prosecutors are looking into the possibility of taking on the case of the death of the unarmed 18-year-old African-American man who was killed by police in his parents’ home in the Bronx in 2012. It is a case that has been the topic of great attention in New York City and beyond, having often been compared with the Trayvon Martin case. Graham was shot by officers who followed him into his home and broke into the bathroom before killing him.

Officer Richard Haste was charged with manslaughter in the death of Graham, which took place Feb. 2, 2012. But last summer, a New York State Supreme Court judge ordered that the charges against Haste be dropped. Acting Justice Steven Barrett said in his ruling that the prosecution failed to give precise instructions to the grand jury that indicted Haste.

It was a stunning moment of frustration for the family.

“It was a disappointment for us, but also for the community and the entire city, in my opinion,” Malcolm said. “What happened was a disgrace. You just can’t chase a person into their home, break down a door and have him wind up dead without any consequences. How much justice is there in that?”

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said it will review the case and determine whether Graham’s civil rights were violated. It is a decision the family is eagerly waiting to hear.

The family has filed a civil suit against Haste and the police department seeking damages in a wrongful death action. That case could be delayed if the federal prosecutors decide to take on their own case.

It is a moment of anxiety for the family, said Royce Russell, the lawyer representing Graham’s mother and father.

“It’s hard for them because the family feels that they have yet to see justice and it’s been almost two years,” Russell said in an interview with BET.com “They are optimistic and skeptical at the same time. Civil suits and other court actions take a long time and it’s hard for families to be patient.”

In the meantime, Malcolm said, the family continues to wait, amid the painful memories of the young man who meant so much to them and to their community.

“It’s been deeply painful for us, and it continues to be,” Malcolm said. “This is an experience that no mother should ever have to go through. We’re trying to manage from one day to the next.”

She added that the family has been heartened by the vast number of people who have stood with them in the last two years.

“People have been with us, and a lot of people,” she said. “That’s what keeps me going and keeps me fighting for justice for my son. Justice for my son is justice for all the kids, everywhere. That’s all we have.”

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Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan

(Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

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