The New Yorker tells the tale of teenager Kalief Browder of New York City, who spent more than 1,000 days in Rikers Island jail charged with stealing a backpack, but was eventually released. In 2010, Browder's case was one of 5,695 felonies that the Bronx District Attorney's office prosecuted. Many cases are delayed as defense attorneys drag them out to improve their odds of winning, judges permit endless adjournments, and prosecutors are perpetually unprepared. In Rikers, Browder was questioned about a fight and beaten by jail officers. He ended up spending 17 months in solitary confinement. The case eventually was dismissed when the alleged victim moved to Mexico.
Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson wouldn’t discuss the case but when asked about cases that drag on and on, he said, “These long delays—two, three years—they're horrendous, but the D.A. is not really accountable for that kind of delay.” His explanation was that either the case did not actually exceed the six-month speedy-trial deadline or the defense attorney failed to bring a speedy-trial motion.