By Joe Deaux
The grandmother of a teenager on trial for killing her cousin by stabbing her 30 times took the stand yesterday and testified that her granddaughter suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder after being raped.
Tiana Browne, 17, is accused of stabbing Shannon Braithwaite to death in September 2008 in Crown Heights. Browne told police that her cousin’s killer was a man who had entered the apartment, stabbed her cousin, and put the knife in her hands threatening to kill her if she told anyone. But prosecutors argue that Browne committed the murder in an act of jealousy, after police found her with the victim’s Coach designer shoes, a T-Mobile Sidekick cell phone and a point-and-shoot camera.
At the Brooklyn Supreme Court yesterday Browne’s grandmother, Jennifer Browne told jurors about an October 2006 incident in which she claimed four or five men forced Tiana to have oral sex with them. Before the episode, Jennifer Browne said her granddaughter was a good student, played tennis and danced, but that afterwards she started skipping school, receiving poor marks and dropping her extracurricular activities. “She changed completely,” she said. “It was total chaos.”
Jennifer Browne went on to testify that Tiana often fought with her sister, Evolone Browne. The fights were verbal, she said, and Tiana never hit her sister or destroyed property. She said her granddaughter started “seeing black.” In moments of stress or during arguments, she testified, Tiana occasionally claimed she could not see anything. She also testified that the two girls shared the same father, a man named Roy James. If true, it would make their relationship sisters as well as aunt and niece.
In an apparent effort to emphasize the defendant’s obsession with possessions, the assistant district attorney, Mark Hale, asked what Tiana owned. Jennifer Browne listed television, computers, video games, designer clothing and shoes. Asked if Tiana acquired more valuables after the October 2006 incident, Jennifer Browne said she received nothing more than usual.
She went on to testify that she began taking Tiana to doctors for mental health examinations.
Tiana’s aunt, Marva Braithwaite – the murder victim’s mother– suggested the troubled girl be taken to church. Instead, Browne testified, Tiana was taken, “to some voodoo lady,” in Queens. She added that the “voodoo” lady told Tiana’s aunt that she saw “a lot of blood,” in Tiana’s future. Jennifer Browne added that the lady did not say Tiana was going to kill somebody. A number of people in the courtroom turned their heads toward Tiana’s family with mocking grins on their faces after the comment.
Evolone Browne took the stand in the afternoon and testified that after the October 2006 incident Tiana began fighting herself in her sleep and suffering from nightmares. “She was very suicidal,” she said. “She wish she was dead.”
Evolone Browne admitted that she would deliberately infuriate Tiana after 2006. The revelation that James was both girls’ father angered Tiana. Sometimes Evolone purposely mentioned this detail in order to provoke Tiana.
Evolone Browne also said Tiana ran away from home between five to ten times after October 2006. Jennifer Browne had testified that Tiana ran away every week. Evolone also testified that Tiana would occasionally lose consciousness and that she had difficulty rousing her. She could not recall how many times this happened.
Though Tiana calls her grandmother “mom” her biological mother is Anneliesje Browne. Anneliesje left the child at a young age and moved to Florida. But she was present at the courtroom. “She’s a sweet girl,” she said. “This is like totally bizarre. Really bizarre. But she’s very loveable. She’s the sweetest person you could want.”