The Team Heads to Los Angeles

by Daniel A. Nelson

Hey, everyone. It's been a busy month so thanks for sticking with us. We just wrapped up our most recent shoot in Los Angeles to interview Louis Pilato.

Associate Producer Julian Lim behind the camera before we begin our interview with Louis Pilato.

Associate Producer Julian Lim behind the camera before we begin our interview with Louis Pilato.

Louis is a lawyer in Los Angeles, but in 1992, he was Kim's defense attorney in Rochester, NY. This was the first time Louis had ever talked about Kim's case on the record since the trial. As we conduct these interviews, it's amazing what people remember almost 30 years later. Louis was sharp in his recollection about many of the key elements of Kim's trial.

Director Daniel A. Nelson interviewing Louis Pilato about his experience defending Kim.

Director Daniel A. Nelson interviewing Louis Pilato about his experience defending Kim.

The most important element we discussed was "justification." Kim was charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter. It was also the jury's responsibility to acknowledge whether or not Kim's actions were justified when she defended herself against her abuser. It was Louis' feeling that Judge Patricia Marks did not adequately convey that to the jury.

With Los Angeles done, we're finally wrapping up production and entering our post production phase. We're really excited to finally sit down with all the footage and start editing everything together. Stay tuned!

-Dan

Our Production Trip to Puerto Rico

by Daniel A. Nelson

What a weekend it has been. We took red-eye flights back and forth from New York City to Ponce, Puerto Rico this weekend to conduct our most anticipated interview to date.

Former Rochester Assistant District Attorney Angela Reyes sits down with the crew and talks about Kim's trial. Reyes was the prosecutor of Kim's case in 1992. (photo by Alejandra Ibarra Chaoul)

Former Rochester Assistant District Attorney Angela Reyes sits down with the crew and talks about Kim's trial. Reyes was the prosecutor of Kim's case in 1992. (photo by Alejandra Ibarra Chaoul)

Angela Reyes was the assistant district attorney in Rochester, New York in 1992 and the prosecutor during Kim's trial. The conversation was spirited at times, but to tell Kim's story, it's important to understand how we have conversations about domestic violence from a legal perspective.

After we unpacked every corner of Kim's trial, we talked about the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act and how she feels about the bill.

Angela Reyes and Director Daniel A. Nelson go back and forth about Kim's trial and the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act. (photo by Alejandra Ibarra Chaoul)

Angela Reyes and Director Daniel A. Nelson go back and forth about Kim's trial and the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act. (photo by Alejandra Ibarra Chaoul)

We look forward to sharing this interview. It was a critical piece of our documentary and it feels good to finally have it on camera. We also took out the drone for a few shots of the area. Whether they make it into the final cut remains to be seen, but here are a few for your viewing pleasure.

Look out for another update this week when we travel with Kim to Albany for the state legislative session. We'll be speaking with New York state senators about the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act and what needs to be done for this bill to pass. Until then, thank you all for your support and keep spreading the word about our campaign!

-Dan

And So I Stayed

by Kim Brown

In 1991, I was a domestic violence victim before I was defendant. At 24, I fought for my life as my boyfriend strangled me in our car in front of my mom’s house. The price of fighting for my life cost me 17 years in prison. In New York State, self-defense laws do not protect domestic violence victims who kill their abusers in a life-or-death situation.

If I had a nickel for every time I was asked, "Why didn't you leave," I would be rich. It's a misconception that battered women always have a choice. The fear of my abuser’s unexpected violent attacks and threats to end my life became so strong it paralyzed me. I was living in constant fear. Women, like me, are 70 times more likely to be killed in the two weeks after leaving than at any other time during the relationship, according to the Domestic Violence Intervention Program. 

My home, my job—no where was safe. 

Kim in the mid '90s at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women

Kim in the mid '90s at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women

One day, we were at a gas station and a male attendant gave me a free stick of gum because I mentioned that it was my birthday. I didn’t want to be rude and not accept the gum. But, I also knew my boyfriend was furiously watching my every move. When I got in the car, I handed him the stick of gum and said, “Here, I don’t want it,” because I knew he was angry. As I was driving to his job at Rochester General Hospital, he forcefully twisted my right arm behind my back. I was counting the minutes and seconds until he had to be at work. I was trying to not crash the car. I was trying to make it through the next 17 minutes. I was trying to survive. But, because he worked at the hospital, I had to be extremely careful about receiving treatment for my injured shoulder. I was in pain and couldn’t drive to a different hospital. I begged the hospital employees to not put my name on the triage board while they treated me. Nowhere was safe. Not even the hospital...and so I stayed.

It was easier to know when and where the blows were coming from rather than start over. At the time, I worried that all relationships escalated into violence. He was charming and tricked people into believing that he was a nice guy all the time. Behind closed doors, I had no self-esteem and no sense of individuality left. I was broken and felt worthless...and so I stayed. 

Now that I’ve done 17 years in prison, maybe it's easier to just leave the domestic violence and trauma behind me. But, as a survivor, I’m staying in this fight to help others, especially those who helped me. It’s healing for me to turn my pain into action. When I was in prison, Jaya Vasandani and Tamar Kraft-Stolar from the Correctional Association of New York visited me and other incarcerated women frequently to assess and report on the quality of living conditions in the prison. One day, I asked Jaya, “Do you think I can help you guys do this when I come home?”

Since coming home from prison in 2008, I have struggled to get a job where I can financially support myself. Then, in 2009, Jaya and Tamar asked if I’d be a survivor advocate for New York’s Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, a bill that would save survivors from prison time for defending themselves against violent abusers. I just want to do what I can to prevent anyone from going through what I have had to endure. In my spare time and when I can afford it, I volunteer my time to speak at legislative conferences and domestic violence forums. I have worked with many advocates to ensure that this bill will be passed sooner rather than later. I want to protect victims of domestic violence before they turn into defendants as I did—and so I stayed in the movement to make systemic change. And I will stay until survivors are believed and the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act is law.

Kim at the 2018 NYC Women's March 

Kim at the 2018 NYC Women's March