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Brooklyn DA candidate Ama Dwimoh reflects on Nixzmary Brown’s case 11 years later

July 19, 2017 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Marines carried the casket of Nixzmary Brown into St. Mary's Church on Jan. 18, 2006. Ama Dwimoh eventually secured the convictions of the 7-year-old's stepfather and mother. AP Photo

This past Tuesday would have been the 19th birthday of Nixzmary Brown, who was 7 years old when she was brutally murdered by her stepfather and mother in their Bedford-Stuyvesant home.

While many people have forgotten the incident, Brooklyn DA candidate Ama Dwimoh, who prosecuted the case, can never forget it.

“I remember the morning of Jan. 11, 2006 very vividly,” said Dwimoh, who was the head of the Brooklyn DA’s Crimes Against Children Bureau at the time. “I was out sick at the time and the phone rang. I got out of bed to answer it and then I rushed into the office because on the other end of the line, they described a little 7-year-old, malnourished, beaten, tied to a chair, and in that moment all I could think about is, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s 7.'”

Dwimoh said it was such a horrible tragedy that it didn’t even seem real until she was speaking at a press conference following the indictment of the child’s supposed protectors. It was shocking, Dwimoh said, because it reminded her that terrible tragedies can happen at any time and any place, even right here in Brooklyn.

“Nixzmary’s death brought shockwaves through the city,” Dwimoh recalled. “When I think back on it, I remember the phone call, and I remember watching the line around the block to go view her body and pay respects  … It was shocking.”

Dwimoh eventually led the prosecution to convict Brown’s parents, Cesár Rodriguez and Nixzaliz Santiago, in front of Hon. L. Priscilla Hall and Hon. Patricia DiMango, respectively.

Part of the tragedy at the time was the failure of the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), who had been warned about Nixzmary’s living conditions, but failed to act. Not only did Dwimoh see her role as one of bringing justice for a little girl, but felt that she was also instrumental in bringing awareness to the issues within ACS.

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“There is a lot of reform in the aftermath in terms of ACS,” Dwimoh said. “It was an overhaul of the entire system. It was needed. Unfortunately, it takes these kinds of tragedies to bring this to light. This little 7 year old left us with the legacy that things like this happen in Brooklyn, and we have the responsibility as adults to protect our children.”

As a prosecutor, Dwimoh fought for the rights of children before this incident, and has continued to do so even after leaving the DA’s Office. She helped bring a Baby Safe Haven statue to New York, she helped with Operation CARE, which brings awareness of child abuse, and even recently she has advocated for the passage of the Child Victims Act.

One thing that Dwimoh would like to do is to re-establish the Crimes Against Children Bureau, which got swallowed up by another bureau years ago, within the Brooklyn DA’s Office.

“In order for people to get their justice, you need a specialty unit that is focused and knows what those cases are like,” Dwimoh said. “[The Crimes Against Children Bureau] was essential. When you see these types of crimes continue it makes you see that these victims deserve to have people solely focusing on these issues and these types of prosecutions.”

 

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