According to the Press, Brown was denied a personal bond at his hearing and asked to pay $3,000 to walk free — an amount he could not afford. He was then sent to the Harris County Jail to await trial. Less than 48 hours later, he was found unresponsive in the holding cell he’d shared with several other men, including Curtis Maxwell and Ebenezer Nah.
Maxwell and Nah had beaten Brown to within an inch of his life. He was pronounced dead at nearby Memorial Hermann Hospital soon after.
All three men were reportedly booked on either April 2 or 3, meaning they’d been in the jail together three days at most. Maxwell and Nah have both been charged with aggravated assault causing seriously bodily injury, Harris County Sheriff’s spokesman Ryan Sullivan told the Press last Wednesday.
It’s still unclear what caused the dispute that led to Brown’s murder, but according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, homicide is a rare cause of death in local jails — lagging far behind illness and suicide, the two leading causes. Nevertheless, the 46-year-old’s exposure to factors that led to his demise remain a stark reminder of the consequences America’s criminal justice system holds for those who can’t shoulder its financial burden.
In places like Harris County, Ferguson, Missouri, Montgomery, Alabama, and elsewhere, poor people easily get ensnared in a cycle of debt and incarceration, as their inability to pay fees stemming from minor offenses incur increasingly more financial, and legal, penalties. The result is a system where being poor becomes a de facto crime.
According to the Press, guards are supposed to check on inmates at the Harris County Jail every 15 minutes, and it was during one of these checks that Brown’s prone body was discovered. One of Brown’s former girlfriends told theHouston Chronicle that he left behind a teenage son, who is devastated by the loss of his father.
“All I know is, something like this shouldn’t happen,” the woman told the Chronicle. “Who gets beat up and killed in jail in a holding cell?”