New York City: Murdered Woman Responsible for Her Own Death

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 03:  Some of the buildings of the Savoy Park apartment complex are seen December 3, 2008 in New York.  Savoy Park and some other rent-stabilized housing projects in Harlem have been bought by private companies that are now going through financial problems due to the mortage banking crisis, leaving advocates of subsidized housing projects fearing for the fate of the inexpensive housing.  (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

New York City: Murdered Woman Responsible for Her Own Death

Victim should have known that public housing is dangerous, lawyers say.

Published September 20, 2015

The City of New York has engaged in a shameless round of blaming the victim in a case involving a college student who was murdered in 2013 at an East Harlem housing project.

Lawyers for the city claim the family of Olivia Brown, 23, who was shot by Michele "Mohawk" Graham, 36, after an argument, doesn't deserve a settlement because Brown should have known that the projects are dangerous.

Brown’s mother, Crystal, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city last year, claiming a lack of security allowed Graham into the Lincoln Houses before she shot and killed her daughter. Graham is a former resident of the housing development, the New York Post reports, but according to police was homeless at the time of the shooting.


Seeking a dismissal of the suit, lawyers for the New York City Housing Authority argued that the shooting was “spontaneous” and “unavoidable.”

“All the risks, hazards and dangers were open, obvious and apparent to [Brown] and said risks, hazards and dangers were openly and voluntarily assumed by [Brown],” NYCHA’s lawyers wrote, claiming that the agency could not have prevented Brown’s death. “Such damages and injuries are attributable, in whole or in part, to the culpable conduct of the plaintiff’s decedent and/or third parties.”

Brown’s mother was understandably outraged at the motion. “I can’t believe they’re saying she’s responsible for her murder,” she said. “Everybody has a right to be safe in their home. Why wasn’t my daughter safe? Because we’re poor and live in public housing?”

Since Brown's death, two police towers and a number of cameras have been installed at Lincoln Houses. “Why didn’t they have the security in place to protect her when there’s been a history of violence here for 25 years?” Brown asked.

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 (Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Written by Evelyn Diaz


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