Sheila Turner was born in Washington, D.C, 1952. She was one child of seven in a working class family. She attended Barnard College and Columbia Law School, classmates with Eric Holder. Through hard work and dedication, she moved up through the legal system until she became an associate judge on the New York Court of Appeals.
Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first African-American woman to serve on New York State’s highest court, was found dead Wednesday afternoon (April 12th) in the Hudson River. According to the New York Times, “The last time someone heard from Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam apparently was on Tuesday when she called her chambers in the Graybar Building in Manhattan to say she wasn’t well and would not be coming in.
At some point, she had left her apartment in Harlem, law enforcement officials said, departing without her wallet and cellphone, and locking the door behind her.” For a person to leave their home without their bank cards, identification, and any mode of commutation, probably means that they didn’t plan on coming back.
Judge Abdul-Salaam’s assistant became worried about her not showing up to work and called her husband, who had already reported her missing to law enforcement. Later that day, the judge was found floating down the Hudson River, fully clothed and lifeless; no apparent signs of trauma.
Authorities are looking at her death as a possible suicide. Abdus-Salaam, 65, spoke to friends and her doctor about being stressed out, The New York Times reported. The Judge has a history of suicide in her family, “in 2012, her mother committed suicide at age 92, according to two law enforcement officials. Two years later, around the same holiday, her brother shot himself to death, the officials said.” Depression obviously runs in her family, so suicide is not out of the question for the judge.
Investigators are currently looking into surveillance videos that the judge could have passed along her route to determine if this was a suicide (did she walk into the river?). The medical examiner has pending details on her cause of death.
Whenever a high profile black person randomly turns up dead like this, it is important that we look at what the individual was involved in before they died, did they have any enemies, etc. With Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam being a black female with ties to Islam, she automatically had a target on her back in America. Throughout her career, Abdus-Salaam has advocated for:
- Poor People
- The Mentally ill
- Injured and or disenfranchised people who brought claims against rich corporations
There is a lot of mystery and conspiracy theories surrounding Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaams death. Some believe that she committed suicide, while others believe that she was murdered (or blackmailed) for whatever reason. Hopefully surveillance video and other evidence can shed light on this tragedy. This is the second black judge that has died in such a short amount of time.