Militant Journalism

Wrongly jailed Queens youth organized own defense from prison: Free Prakash Churaman!

On Feb. 10, now 21-year-old Prakash Churaman of Queens, New York, stood on the steps of Queens Criminal Court addressing a crowd of supporters just before his latest trial. He spoke confidently into the mic: “I’m ready to fight. This is round two. And I just want to say…free them all!” 

At age 15, Churaman was held and aggressively interrogated by the New York Police Department for the fatal shooting of his best friend Taquane Clark. After he and his mother were subjected to hours of intimidation tactics by Detectives Barry Brown and Daniel Gallagher, Churaman agreed to say whatever they wanted to hear: in this case, a false admission of guilt. 

No physical evidence ties him to the crime. All the police have is testimony from Clark’s grandmother who claimed she heard Churaman’s voice during the home invasion where Clark was killed. 

Churaman was held at Rikers Island jail on pre-trial detention for nearly four years. When he finally went to trial, Judge Kenneth Holder refused to allow an expert on false confessions to take the stand. Churaman was sentenced to 9 years-to-life in prison and denied bail. 

Despite limited access to phone and internet, Churaman organized a campaign for his freedom from within prison. With the involvement of friends, family, local activists and grassroots organizations, the Free Prakash Alliance was formed. The Alliance has since organized an ongoing fundraiser, active social media pages, street outreach, letter-writing, bail support, a housing search, and rallies

‘Free Prakash Alliance’ fights back against racist system

This past June, the appellate court overturned Churaman’s conviction on the grounds that an expert witness should have been allowed. Twice, the Prosecution offered Churaman a lower sentence if he pled guilty. John McFarlane of VOCAL-NY pointed out at the rally that 98% of felony arrests that result in convictions happen through plea deals, not trials. Each time Churaman was offered a plea deal, he refused. He maintained his innocence and prepared to go to trial again.

Cory Greene of H.O.L.L.A.! (How Our Lives Link Altogether) said to Prakash Churaman’s supporters on Feb. 10,“This system has been intentionally pushing our people into prison after slavery.” He spoke of how the capitalist system has developed different strategies to fight against the people, particularly Black and Brown youth who fight for our collective liberation. “This is a day for us to honor the spirit of the ancestors who show up in Prakash.” 

The Free Prakash Alliance continues to demand that the Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz drop all charges against Prakash Churaman. The organizers also urge more people to join the fight to free Churaman. A victory for him would be a victory for all who demand an end to this unjust system.

Here are ways you can get involved in the fight to free Prakash Churaman: 

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