“And I want to change the world…”
September 8, 2012 1 Comment
Nicole Kish, known simply as Nyki, is 26 years old. She resides in a maximum security unit at the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ontario. Nyki was 21 years old when life as she knew it came to a dramatic and grinding halt in August of 2007.
The events leading up the Nyki’s arrest began during the late evening of August 8th. Nyki and a group of her friends, later referred to by media as “traveling kids“, were in Toronto to celebrate her 21st birthday.
That evening, an unrelated group of coworkers went out together to try to improve “morale among the workers“. The evening did not go well for the group and eventually the majority went their separate ways. The two remaining members, George Dranichak and Ross Hammond, went to a music club. The location was Queen Street West and Bathurst Street. They remained at the club until about 11:30 p.m., when they left and decided to get more cash at an ATM.
Allegedly, Dranichak and Hammond were approached near the ATM by a female who asked the men for $20. She was described as wearing loose clothing, having a ponytail of dirty light brown hair, and being young. The two men made a series of vulgar comments to the female. According to court records, two additional males and a female who was later identified as Nyki Kish by Dranichak after he watched video taken by CityTV, approached and became involved in the argument.
Dranichak described the attempt he and his friend made to move away from the group. When the two reached the south side of Queen Street the men became separated. Dranichak said he was attacked by the female and blonde haired male. The attack was described as consisting of the female, later identified by the man as Nyki, hitting the man in the knee with her bike. The male then reportedly began to punch Dranichak and kick him. After saying he was pushed into a window, Dranichak said he escaped by getting into a taxi.
Witness descriptions of the event varied considerably. One witness, Mystica Cooper, stated that the girl with dark hair on a bicycle did not take part in the altercation. She described the group involved in the attack as being a female with dirty light brown hair worn in dreadlocks, and three males. Though Cooper saw a girl with brown hair, riding a bike, she said the girl was not involved. The girl with dark brown hair asked Cooper for a cigarette. By the time a police car arrived on the scene, Cooper left with friends to go to a bar.
A significant amount of people observed the events that unfolded that night, but the accounts were inconsistent. A reporter wrote, “Though none of the approximately 20 witnesses directly saw Mr. Hammond get stabbed, their accounts of events that night allowed Judge Nordheimer to piece together a narrative.”
But was that narrative accurate?
By the time the fight reached a conclusion, two facts were certain. Nyki and Ross Hammond were stabbed. Nyki survived her injury and Hammond did not. A website constructed to raise awareness about Nyki’s case explained that DNA was found on people involved in the event, but none was found on Nyki. There were surveillance videos that were said to have recorded the events that took place that night; however, both videos were reported to have gone missing out of police custody. The site also touched on a confession given by one of the other people accused of the crime “in regards to having pulled the alleged knife”.
Nyki was ultimately convicted of second degree murder, based on confusing and highly contradictory eyewitness testimony. Despite the problematic aspects of the multiple eyewitness accounts, the charges against the other three people described as being involved were dropped.
Matt Baratta lives in Georgia. He learned about Nyki’s case on an Amanda Knox support group. He had become intrigued by the Knox case and was “stunned at the similarities” between the two cases.
Matt was instantly drawn to Nyki’s case, believing that she had been unjustly convicted. He sent Nyki’s mother a message and shared some previous writings he had done – including one about the Amanda Knox case – asking her if she wanted him to write about Nyki. He subsequently spent a month thoroughly researching her case before writing his article.
Since learning of this particular case, Matt has become close with Nyki and her family. He described his advocacy as a three-pronged effort consisting of writing to inform others about her case, providing emotional support to Nyki and her family, and helping financially.
Matt recently met Nyki for the first time when he traveled to Canada. He stated that meeting Nyki only reinforced his beliefs about her. “She constantly thinks of others, including her pod mates. She asked me lots of questions about my life and my interests. She is amazing”.
Matt urged people to read more about Nyki’s case on her site and to share her story with others who might be motivated to help. “Nyki is innocent,” he explained. “And has so much to offer society.”
He recommended a number of ways for people to help, including writing letters of support to Nyki because “it gets very lonely and isolated in prison”. He also suggested sharing her story. Financial donations to assist with her case are always welcomed and helpful as well. Currently Nyki’s case is on appeal. She has one chance to obtain relief through the Canadian court system.
Nyki is an intriguing woman on many levels. One of the first things I discovered as I began to dig deeper into her case is the advocacy she has done on behalf of others. Not only is she an exceptional writer and musician, but she is a community activist. In Hamilton, Ontario she helped to found a program known as “Books to Bars“. The purpose of this program is to “organize, package, and deliver donations of anywhere from 100-450 books to nearly a dozen remands, detention centres and prisons”.
While Nyki’s friends and family have advocated for her freedom, Nyki has turned her attention to a much bigger goal. “Aside from my love of family, friends and freedom, I have only one thing in my heart today,” she wrote in her blog on July 15th. “It is complete dedication to do all I can to effect positive change in here from now on, and to not let the terrible wrongs I see go unnoticed anymore.”
In a three-part blog series, Nyki outlined the policies and structural conditions within the Grand Valley Institution for women. She has composed these writings “to help readers form a clear picture of the realities of imprisonment”.
Her writing is unusually insightful and at times harrowing. Her blog is a must-read for those unfamiliar with the alienating, and at times degrading, prison environment. Though the events described took place in Canada, Nyki’s experiences parallel those of many others throughout various regions.
One of the reasons I felt a need to write about Nyki’s case is not just because of the unfairness of her conviction, but because she is a far from ordinary woman who dreams of living on a boat and changing the world.
“I dream of a world,” she wrote on September 2nd of this year, “where some people do not have to suffer for others to prosper, where our existence does not destroy this planet, where our actions come from a place of understanding, not fear. And I believe this is entirely possible.”
I believe it too. I hope that someday soon Nyki will be free to continue in her efforts to help others and educate the public about the topics she is passionate about.
Write to Nyki
One way to help Nyki is to send her a letter of support. Her address is as follows:
1575 Homer Watson Blvd
Atten: Nicole Kish, Max unit
Websites and Resources
Supporters of Nyki maintain a group on Facebook here.
The Free Nyki page on Facebook provides photos and updates here.
A website constructed to raise awareness about Nyki’s case is here.
Nyki maintains an online blog where she speaks about her experiences in prison. Her writing is thoughtful, deep, and aims to educate people about injustices she observes and other issues regarding the women’s prison environment.