I had the honor of working with Ken for years, well before he was district attorney and I was public advocate. Twelve years ago, we stood side by side with many elected officials and civil rights activists around the country to push for a conviction in the murder of Emmett Till.
Like myself, I know that Ken had grown up seeing the horrific pictures of Emmett after he was lynched. His brutal murder was one of the starting points of the civil rights era. And fighting for his case to be reopened was the starting point of a long, working relationship together between Ken and myself.
We worked together again on the alleged rape of Nafissatou Diallo by Dominique Strauss-Kahn in 2011. Nafissatou was a young, immigrant housekeeper working in a hotel where the former IMF president was staying. The prosecution moved to dismiss the case because there were inconsistencies in Nafissatou’s story, sending the message that only “perfect” rape victims should bother coming forward. Ken stood by her, and she ultimately received an undisclosed settlement.
In more recent history, we worked together to take guns off the street in Brooklyn, and I was beyond proud of the work Ken was doing to overturn wrongful convictions. Creating a criminal justice system that is accountable and transparent is the new civil rights movement, and Ken was at its forefront.
Although he lived and breathed restorative justice, Ken was a family man. He loved his wife and children dearly. We were neighbors, and I would see them at the supermarket, in the park and at block parties. It was his family and his faith that drove him to do better for the people of Brooklyn.
Although Ken is no longer with us physically, we must continue to live out his legacy. We must fight for those without a voice who need our help. We must rally behind those whose cause is worthy. We must never never stop until we have achieved justice for all.
By PUBLIC ADVOCATE LETITIA JAMES