The Nicole Kish Case: Brother Can You Spare a Dame?
by Lise LaSalle
On March 10th, 2014, the Canadian newspapers, especially in Ontario, were abuzz with headlines such as “Toronto panhandler loses stabbing appeal of man who refused to give cash’’ and “Panhandler loses appeal of her second-degree murder conviction.’’
The ‘Panhandler’ they are referring to in these articles is Nicole (Nyki) Kish who was charged and convicted of second-degree murder on March 1st, 2011 and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 12 years in the stabbing death of Ross Hammond.
Kish was not a panhandler but a young lady who had worked hard to be able to travel and experience life on the road as many others have done at her age. She had no criminal record and was an artistic girl who loved to sing and write songs. She was also an advocate for many causes dear to her heart. At the time of the encounter with Hammond, Kish was with her boyfriend and hanging out with some transient young people exploring the wild side of life. At times, some of Kish’s companions would ask a brother to spare a dime but it was not her way of life and she was by no means a panhandler standing in the street asking for money.
Nicole has steadfastly maintained her innocence since the 2007 death of Ross Hammond after a large street brawl near the Toronto intersection of Queen and Bathurst. In fact, the scene of the ‘crime’ was such a melee that despite all of the merchants and street witnesses who were present, none of them actually saw the crime. We know that Hammond ended up dead and that the scene was very chaotic. Numerous witnesses did see Mr. Hammond with a knife in his hand, and they all stated that he was drunk, angry and very abusive the night he was killed. That is the only certainty in this case. But no one saw anyone stab him. A young man called Jeremy Woolley was also stabbed — very likely by Hammond.
Hammond was stabbed in the chest 4 or 5 times and he did not die immediately. When the police showed up, they questioned him as they waited for the ambulance. He was asked twice about the knife and both times, he answered, “No comment’’.
On the night Ross Hammond died, Nicole Kish had been in Toronto for only a day and was walking on busy Queen Street celebrating her 21st birthday with her boyfriend and other young people.
Ross Hammond and his work buddy George Dranichak were downtown that night with some of their colleagues having a drink to try to boost their morale as the company they worked for was struggling. The media referred to them as ‘Internet marketers’ and described Nicole and her friends as ‘panhandlers’. This image was pushed hard by the media and because of some recent problems Toronto the Pure had been having with panhandlers and street safety in general, they were instantly wrongly perceived. The City wanted to rid its streets of dangerous people and well-dressed jocks like Hammond and Dranichak could do no wrong.
In reality, the two men were mostly purveyors of porn, and Dranichak, who was in the country on a visa, had a history of violence in the US. It was in his best interest to avoid trouble and any negative perception from the media or the police. Thus, his account of the events was sketchy to say the least, and nonsensical at times.
On the night of Hammond’s stabbing death, he and Dranichak, who were highly intoxicated, walked to a bank machine to withdraw some cash. They were approached by a woman identified as Faith Watts who allegedly asked them for some change. At a preliminary hearing, Dranichak testified that he and Hammond made sexually derogatory remarks and asked her to perform certain sexual acts if she wanted the money. He admitted that their persistence had caused the confrontation.
During his early interrogations, Dranichak never said that she demanded $20, but two years after that fateful night, he came up with this figure in an attempt to justify their outrage and inappropriate outburst.
Watts was carrying a knife and had taken drugs that day. She quickly got into a pretty heated argument with the two men and they traded insults. Her boyfriend joined in to help her. He ended up being pushed around and then beaten unconscious and Watts admitted pulling a knife because she was afraid. Nine spots of Hammond’s DNA was found on Watt’s clothing. Kish and Watts were similar in appearance and were often confused by witnesses including Dranichak who could not distinguish between the two of them at times.
Bystanders took notice of the fight and many joined in. There were surveillance cameras along the streets but they were lost while in police custody: the footage of one was recorded over and the other was lost entirely. Detective Giroux, who was working on the case, said that by the time the evidence box where the video was placed came into his possession, the video had vanished. Justice Nordhiemer attributed the loss of the video to the “frailties of human nature.’’
The fight was in full force on both the south and north sides of the street, and some think that Dranichak was the south side combatant with Hammond on the north side one. But as Dranichak heard police sirens, he made a coward’s escape leaving his friend behind. He jumped in a cab. Behind him was a guy named Hal Amero, who was known to have been involved in 18 knife fights, and could easily have killed Hammond. Kish was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time, in the middle of the melee probably trying to help and pull people away from the attacker.
Witnesses reported seeing this Hal fellow throw a knife in a drainage sewer but the police never followed up on this tip.
Because Kish was stabbed in the arm during this attack, Justice Nordheimer said that since she had been stabbed, there is an ‘’irresistible inference’’ that she must have killed Hammond. And the fact that Watts had blood from the victim on her clothes and boots was attributed to the ‘’limitations of physical evidence.’’ Although the knife belonged to Watts, Nordheimer suggested that it had changed hands three times before fatally wounding Hammond. What a strange roundabout way to avoid a straight line to the truth.
The police, the media and the Crown wanted the ‘panhandler’ case solved so that the good citizens of Toronto would feel safe again. So no one protested that strange and bizarre way of arriving at the conviction of a 21-year-old girl who just happened to be stabbed. And, this same girl stayed at the scene of the crime until the police and medical help arrived. Wouldn’t she have fled the scene like the others if she had anything to hide?
So, we might ask, how did the police end up charging Nyki Kish for this crime?
- Out of 20 witnesses, no one saw Hammond being stabbed.
- Consequently, no witness saw Kish stab Hammond.
- Kish’s blood was on the knife Ross Hammond used to stab her.
- Ross Hammond’s blood was also on the knife.
- Hammond had cuts on his hands that were bleeding profusely.
- Hammond was stabbed multiple times.
- Hammond was conscious when police arrived. He never said Kish stabbed him and on a video (this one did not vanish) he stated, ‘’No comment’’ when asked about the knife.
These are the known facts.
And with this, the Canadian police charged Nyki Kish and a Canadian Court found her guilty.
What witnesses saw
Some witnesses saw a young man while leaving the scene stopping to show another witness that he had been stabbed by lifting his shirt. He also bragged about having been stabbed in earlier fights. His image is captured on a video showed by the media. But the police never found him or did they even look for him?
A video from a nearby pasta store was used to describe or ID four “major” participants. At the same time, many other “participants” were there at the scene but for some reason these other persons are allegedly “unidentifiable”. The police did not bother to question or ID Hal Amero, the likely killer, or his brother ‘Twitch’, for that matter, the two people who were later described by three separate witnesses as being the guys who, while leaving the crime scene, stopped to chat and brag about being stabbed, and even showed the stab wound(s) to all three.
The pasta video clearly shows Hammond and proves, apparently, that he not only had no knife, but that he had not yet been stabbed.
As the judges eliminated the other suspects, and with an assist from the defence, resolved that the Watts knife was the murder weapon, they seemed to think that they proved beyond any doubt that Nyki carried the knife across the street.
Such a leap of nonsense
It was a bench trial (no jury) and you would think that a judge would have seen through this nonsense, but Kish was nonetheless found guilty of second degree murder.
The overwhelming question in this whole saga for me was why on earth didn’t Nicole Kish take the stand to tell her story? When the police first came around to question her, she was medicated and told by her family and legal aid not to say anything. When the trial came around, her lawyers told her not to testify. She wanted to tell her side of the story very badly but they insisted that she remain silent.
Fifty witnesses presented confusing and contradictory testimony on the witness stand so the last thing Nicole’s lawyers wanted was for her to testify and sound like she was not being truthful or to simply confuse the matter even more. Because they had no jury to persuade, they probably were very confident that a judge could never find her guilty on such mixed and flimsy evidence or lack thereof.
But her not testifying was perceived negatively by the family of the victim and the public at large, who believed that the only reason she did not take the stand was because she had something to hide. It must have been excruciating for her to remain silent under these circumstances but lawyers are supposed to know best.
For reasons unknown even to her own defense attorneys, Faith Watts, who owned a knife and allegedly started the whole saga, as well has having numerous spots of Hammond’s DNA on herself while Kish had only a tiny speck of blood on her shoe because she walked near the ambulance where Hammond had bled, was allowed to return to the States and was not charged.
The media had damaged the public perception of Kish’s character, and when she was out on bail, she was prohibited from speaking publicly about the case. So no one heard about who she really was and that violence is not part of her makeup. She has always been a fighter for causes but never a violent fighter. Despite the negative media coverage, Nicole’s conviction sparked a ‘’Free Nyki’’ campaign advocating her release.
As an appellant, she raised two grounds of appeal: First, that the trial judge accepted and relied on unreliable evidence by concluding that she was the female armed with a knife on the south side of the street. Second, the judge failed to consider important exculpatory evidence that could have contributed to the existence of a reasonable doubt. Most significantly, the judge did not consider the possibility that Faith Watts, Jeremy Wooley, or the unknown third man involved in the final fight could have been the stabber.
The Ontario Appeals Court declared that it is not necessary for Kish to have done the actual stabbing to convict her on the 2nd degree murder charges. The OAC says that even if Wooley had done the stabbing, Kish was convictable simply by being involved in the melee on that side of the street.
 If Wooley administered the fatal stab wounds, the appellant would still be
guilty of second degree murder as a party (to the second fight, and as the transporter of the knife).
Justice Nordheimer put together a scenario which patently does not describe (by ALL accounts) a confusing, nighttime street melee where a good number of the principals and witnesses are inebriated, including the eventual victim.
There is also “hint” in the appellate decision that their own hands were tied because the defence did not attack Nordheimer’s simplified scenario; all the defence offered, really, was that “Faith Watts may have done it.”
Odd things about the rejection of this appeal
The Pasta video is used to confirm that Hammond was not injured or armed at the time he appears in it. Nonetheless, it could logically be argued that Hammond was carrying the knife and was already bleeding from a chest wound. The video is not of high enough quality for the court to really conclude anything about Hammond.
All four judges ignored the fact that Hammond was in possession of a knife and had it with him when lying wounded on sidewalk. Watts had testified that it was her knife which she used to scare Hammond to protect her boyfriend and that Hammond took it from her. No other witnesses ever saw a girl with a knife on the north side. And the ones who saw a girl on the south side admitted they could have easily mixed the two girls up.
After testing Kish’s items five times and finding no Hammond DNA, they tried a 6th time and it was fruitful. There was a trace of Hammond’s DNA near the sole of her shoe. Meanwhile, Watts has Hammond’s DNA all over her. She also had a bite mark on her arm and when she was arrested, she head-butted a police officer. In court, the Crown claimed that Kish was the aggressive one. Watts, who had a criminal record in California with more than a dozen arrests for drugs, theft and altercations with law enforcement, and the two males, Fresh and Wooley, who had entered in Canada illegally, were deported before Kish’s trial.
If Kish is the accessory then who was she accessory to and why did they release this killer without any charges? Remember that Watts admits to owning and brandishing the knife, which in any case is too short to have caused the fatal wound, but could have caused the minor back wounds.
It seems that the review of this case involving two well-dressed men and ‘panhandlers’ fell flat on its face. Brother can you spare a Dame?
Nyki’s parents are her champions and they visit her every week. Their goal has always been to make sure that their daughter comes out of this ordeal with the least amount of damage possible and to keep some normalcy in her life. Her mother Christine reads her a lot of stuff from Facebook, she plays her songs that have been written for her, and prints a lot of pictures and art made by supporters. They spend a lot of time talking on the phone.
Nicole’s sister is 7 years old and was 6 months old when Nyki got bail and spent 3 and 1/2 years on house arrest. They are extremely close and she has been visiting her at the Kitchener prison with the rest of the family on a regular basis. They even have sleepovers right there in the prison in the private family visiting house, where they live like a regular family for three day stretches. They cook, dance, make art and sing songs, watch movies and play in the backyard.
Nyki’s friends also visit her regularly. She is lucky that her family lives only an hour away as many women prisoners rarely get visits due to distance.
When the news of the rejection of her appeal came down yesterday, her family and her supporters were devastated. Nicole will remain strong because of her family, friends and supporters, who now are ready to continue the fight in the court of public opinion and this time, Nyki will lead the parade. It’s time to turn the tide and get this Dame a break!
I feel for the tragic passing of Ross Hammond and do not want his memory in any shape or form tarnished but in my opinion, his death is as much of a mystery as Nyki’s conviction.
Excerpts from “A Message from Nyki”
So the system is more corrupt and broken than even I believed. I believed in the appeal I just lost. I have believed since the day I was charged that somewhere within the system one of the many pairs of eyes that comprise it would see what has happened and stop it. Now last night I found myself lying awake wishing that I was guilty like they say I am, terrible as it sounds because then I could at least understand. But then I let my tears out and I stopped wishing such a terrible thing…
In my frantic state on my birthday in 2007, I did not even realize that anyone had been hurt but me. I screamed and screamed for those police to come and I was so angry at them when they came and told me that I was not their priority. But I called for the police, I did not run away that night, I had no reason to.
I never spoke about that night again though. This system has told me not to for this reason or that every single day since. But now, I have no reason not to speak. There are no avenues or safeguards in the system left to hold on to. I am confronted with the reality that I am systemically abandoned.
* * * * *
I am sorry I don’t reply to all the kind and caring letters I receive and I am sorry that I have left people fight for me outside without fighting beside you in here. I lost my hope but I have again found it and I will never let it go again, to speak not just for me but against the whole insane state of the institutions of law and justice. There is no equality or justness within them.
Thank you for the continued love and support of everyone out there who care about the truth or who care for me or who care about people doing the right thing. I’ll do my best to do the right thing too from in here. And that starts by ending the silence I’ve let occur.
So much love and solidarity
Nyki Kish, a case of faulty circumstantial identification
Call in to speak with the host
Tune in on Tuesday September 3, at 8 PM CDT. What is Central Daylight Time?
Nicole “Nyki” Kish was wrongfully convicted on March 1, 2011, of second degree murder for the stabbing death of Ross Hammond in Toronto, Canada, on August 8, 2007.
Scheduled Guests: Nyki’s mother Christine Bivens and English solicitor Clive Wismayer.
We will be taking calls in the final segment. Please call in with any comments or questions: (347) 850-1478.
This is an Injustice Anywhere Featured Case. We have reviewed all aspects of this case and have concluded that there is simply no solid evidence to support the conviction. Hammond’s death resulted from a chaotic street brawl that included many people. The video surveillance footage that could have told the story was reportedly “lost” while under police supervision, leaving the details of that night to forever remain unclear. Tune in for an in-depth conversation on the facts of this case. We will also discuss Nyki’s appeal hearing set for October 29, 2013.
“…innocent people will continue to be damned to this until more Canadians are made aware of the workings of our judicial system and vital changes are made. I’m ashamed that our police forces tunnel vision to prosecute me against all obvious facts will leave many without true closure and equally ashamed that our media is not the public watchdog it ought to be.” -Nyki Kish
Dear Jailer: Free Nyki Kish
I just wanted to say hello.
You see me everyday
But you never say hello.
You’ve yelled at me before
You’ve touched my body before
You’ve written reports on me before,
But you’ve never said hello.
Excerpt from A Poem written by Nyki Kish from her cell at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ontario.
Faceless, and often nameless, Nyki (Nicole) Kish and hundreds of other female inmates are locked behind walls with nary a nod nor a friendly hello by those who stand “guard” over them.
Despite the general belief that losing our freedom is equal to losing our right to speak and be treated humanely, I want to defy such a ridiculous assumption with a more enlightened view:
That each of us, no matter where we may end up, is a precious life worth knowing, honouring and giving voice to.
The poem that begins this article is from Nyki’s own Personal Blog, This Wall is Not Infallible – a space where she continues to assert her voice and share her invaluable point of view. The beauty of this gesture is in her refusal to let the system define her or constrain her thoughts; and it’s an eloquent nod to who she is as a poet, musician and activist. But it’s also an ironic commentary on how (and why) she came to be convicted by the media and a judge. A judge who presented a confounding judgment of guilty on the charge of second degree murder.
I may not be a legal analyst, but when I read the documentation surrounding this case, I was astounded by Justice Ian Nordheimer’s verdict. The case can be summed up best as a messy heap of contradictory and flawed evidence.
The details that led to the stabbing death of Ross Hammond are chaotic and complex. I won’t expound on the details here, but will highlight the areas I find most troubling. I would encourage you to visit the freenyki.org site and read the Trial Summary, the Nordheimer Verdict and the very concise summary of the evidence and judgment written by Clive Wismayer. There is also an excellent wiki page dedicated to the Nyki Kish case.
Trial-by-media and the Political (Ill)will of a City
It is a rare condition in Canada when a defendant is branded so guilty by the media that he or she doesn’t receive a fair trial. But this is exactly what happened to Nyki Kish.
Even before the trial began Nyki was branded “The Panhandler Killer.” Not only was this a huge misrepresentation of who Nyki was (by all accounts), but it painted her with an ugly brush that pointed to an even uglier red flag:
A strong political bias driven by a city (Toronto) bent on criminalizing the homeless under the Safe Streets Act.
Nyki Kish was not homeless nor was she a panhandler, but she was living a lifestyle that asserted her right to to defy the capitalist system she had come to abhor. Nyki writes poignantly about this very subject in an essay she wrote for The Peak entitled, An Abolitionist in Prison: How Living by My Values got Me Framed with Murder.
There are three critical points related to the media that cannot be overlooked in this case:
Despite the fact that the media was initially allowed to run amok with negative and wild accusations about Nyki and the case, once Nyki was out on bail, the courts put her and her family under a strict publication ban. Both would prove to be detrimental to her defense.
[Read here to learn more about the Canadian Justice System and the Media]
The ban prohibited her or her family from speaking publicly about the case (or about Nyki herself). Given her harsh and biased treatment in media, this restriction ensured that no counter view would ever be presented in the court of public opinion. This is significant because it leads to my next important point:
An irresponsible and highly pernicious media surely tainted the jury pool. And directly affected Nyki’s defense strategy. In Canada, a defendant can request a trial by judge rather than a jury. They pursued the first option–for obvious reasons–surely believing that a judge would be more impartial. Initially, their request was opposed to by the prosecution. However, once the prosecution learned who the judge was, they readily agreed. Now, I can’t say why this change was so significant, but it does lead to my third and final point on this matter:
How much did the public outrage to criminalize “street people” (fueled by a jacked-up media) negatively affect the political landscape and outcome of this trial? We are taught that the judicial system rules with impartiality, but we know from other wrongful convictions that this isn’t always the case. Based on how the evidence was applied, is it safe to assume that Nyki became the scapegoat for this public outcry? Let’s look a little closer at the judge’s ruling.
Circumstantial Identification AKA Eye Witness Testimony
In his ruling, Justice Nordheimer stated that his decision was based predominantly on “circumstantial identification.” Now let’s ponder that for a moment. Say, what? Essentially, this is fancy speak for eye witness testimony, of which, in this case, there was a truck load. Testimony was presented (and disregarded) from at least 20 different witnesses, most of which was contradictory, erroneous or not properly followed up or even considered. For example, witnesses who gave crucial evidence at the preliminary hearing did not testify at trial. [I can't possibly expound on all of the details of this case--there is just too much! So, I would again encourage you to read through all the documents available as cited further above].
In addition, Justice Nordheimer himself admits to the following in his judgment with respect to the reliability of eye witness testimony and to the testimony that he himself relied on to make his final decision:
I am aware that, with one exception, none of the witnesses, on whose evidence I rely, positively identified Ms. Kish, or indeed Ms. Watts, from any photographic line-ups that they were shown by the police.
Interestingly, the trial summary on freenyki.org reports that “the one exception Justice Nordheimer was referring to is of the positive identification of Faith Watts.”
And then the following statement from Paragraph  of the Nordheimer judgment dated March 1, 2011:
Come again? What is truly astounding about both these statements is they clearly show a judge who ignored his own admonishment and used a circular form of reasoning with “cherry-picked” testimony. Here is a brilliant quote from Wismayer critiquing Justice Nordheimer’s approach to building his narrative:
The problem with the judge’s approach is that he seems to have elevated himself above the acute difficulty about which mere jurors must be cautioned ‘very strongly’ and arbitrarily cherry-picked his way through the evidence to come up with the following narrative …
Wow. On a final note, there is substantial data supporting the unreliability of eye witness testimony–particularly as it pertains to wrongful convictions. According to the The Innocence Project:
… eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions in the [US], playing a role in nearly 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing. While eyewitness testimony can be persuasive evidence before a judge or jury, 30 years of strong social science research has proven that eyewitness identification is often unreliable.
Flawed Forensics and Destroyed Evidence
The conclusions that the judge came to with respect to the forensic evidence is equally confounding. At this stage, I would highly recommend that you read through pages 4-6 of Wismayer’s document which carefully lays out and analyses the forensics related to the knife and the DNA evidence. Here is a passage from Page 4:
Both Hammond’s and Nyki’s blood were found on the knife he carried away with him, a fact from which the judge drew the inference that the knife caused their wounds. He said:
‘In addition to all of this evidence, however, there is the salient fact that Ms Kish was stabbed. She was the only female who was stabbed. Common sense dictates that she must have been stabbed while participating in the second fight where Mr Hammond got hold of the knife. There is no other logical explanation for how Ms Kish could have come to be stabbed … all of the witnesses I have mentioned have said that there was only one female involved in the second fight.’
With respect to the judge, common sense dictates no such thing.
 Judgment para. 
- Hammond could have obtained the knife in the first fight.
- His blood on the knife isn’t conclusive as the knife that killed him. A cut on his left hand plus an amputated right thumb may have left the traces from a struggle.
- Nyki had no criminal history, nor did she have a history of violence.
- Apart from a tiny spec of Hammond’s blood found on one of her shoes, no blood, hair fibres or DNA of Hammond’s was found on Nyki. In turn no blood, hair, fibres or DNA of Nyki’s was found on Hammond.
- Nyki’s only injury was the cut to her arm, which doesn’t fit with expert forensics on injuries acquired during a knife fight.
- Nyki did not leave the scene. In fact, she walked up to where Hammond was receiving medical attention to get treatment for herself. Why would a perpetrator of a crime place herself where she could be identified by the victim?
- Female, Faith Watts, who admitted to having had a knife on her also had a fresh bite mark on her arm when she was arrested.
Wismayer goes on to list other key factors surrounding the evidence as it relates to witness testimony (much of it conflicting) or logistics of the scene. And then another disturbing fact: “the police negligently lost or erased two crucial surveillance videos.” Despite that the videos likely contained evidence to corroborate (or refute) witness testimony, the defense application for a stay of the proceedings was denied. Wismayer’s summary as a whole raises big red red flags around the guilty verdict, and in my opinion, clearly points to Nyki’s innocence.
Once you have read through all of the information about this case, you will understand just how much the judge oversimplified a very convoluted body of evidence to reach his verdict. And my own personal opinion? His judgment is marred by a truck load of egregiously applied testimony and evidence. That’s my belief and I’m sticking to it.
On June 16, 2013, an announcement was posted on the Free Nyki facebook page that her appeal date has finally been set for October 28 , 2013.
I send all my very best wishes to Nyki, her family and friends with great hopes that this grievous wrong will finally be righted.
FREEDOM FOR NYKI KISH
I’ve also heard that Nyki loves receiving letters and postcards. Please feel free to write her (Nicole Kish) as she awaits her appeal:
Grand Valley, 1575 Homer Watson Blvd,
Atten: Nicole Kish
A Big, Big Thanks to Everyone Supporting Me
I want to thank every person so much for their support and for believing in me. Being imprisoned as a murderer when I am not a murderer is worse than any nightmare I ever could have imagined, and knowing that so many good people know that I did not kill anyone gives me the strength to continue. I put most of my energy in trying to talk about problems with imprisonment itself because if I see something wrong, I cannot look the other way. It seems that you cannot either.
As more and more months pass, I am becoming more and more scared, each day is getting very hard to make it through. At least once everyday I have to stop, breath deeply, and think of each of you, who bravely stand up for me while I cannot stand up for myself. Thank you for being my voice. I cannot tell you how much I regret listening to my lawyers and not speaking out and getting on that stand and screaming as loud as I could.
I wish I could buy an endless amount of stamps and write everyone, but I can't. So I'm doing what I know how to do, and that is trying to give back by breaking the silence and distance between the justice system and our communities, by trying to 'pay it forward' and be a voice for all of the people in here who have no voice, like you have done for me.
It seems like everything to do with the justice/penal system is a big, complicated mess, my case included.
I want my life back more than anything. Everyday and night I wish that the person responsible for the crime I am convicted of would do the right thing and come forward. I wish that any of the people who know the truth would come forward. But I realize that's probably never going to happen. And I also realize that each of you caring for and supporting me through this has saved me, if not from imprisonment then from losing my faith in humanity. So thank you, so very much.
Nicole Kish or Nyki to those who know and adore her is a talented singer songwriter, artist, poet, and dedicated community activist. Over the past few years, Nyki founded a non-profit organization dedicated to improving literacy and educational opportunities within Ontario’s correctional facilities. As well she co-founded Bound for Glory, a not for profit arts and literary magazine for talented and neglected artists. Sadly however, on March 1st 2011, Nyki was wrongfully convicted of 2nd degree murder for little reason more than that she was there and she was stabbed. Dismissing the complete absence of positive identification, the confession of a former co-accused in regards to having pulled the alleged fatal knife, the lack of any DNA on Nyki and the copious amount on others, and the two separately "lost" surveillance videos gone missing in police custody, which have been alleged to have captured the events of that night, the judge successfully undermined this country's core judicial principal of having to achieve for a just conviction, guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
In fact the defense breached that threshold in proving her innocent. In short, backed by a media complacent with the "official" yet inconsistent story of Detective Giroux and the crown, an innocent young woman temporarily if not indefinitely lost her right to a beautiful life. Nonetheless, we plea to all who have a good heart and possess a care for true justice to support Nyki through these dark times and to demand her release/ ultimate acquittal.
"...innocent people will continue to be damned to this until more Canadians are made aware of the workings of our judicial system and vital changes are made. I'm ashamed that our police forces tunnel vision to prosecute me against all obvious facts will leave many without true closure and equally ashamed that our media is not the public watchdog it ought to be." -Nyki Kish
Please everybody, write Nyki. Nothing would be as meaningful than to do so. Her address is
Grand Valley, 1575 Homer Watson Blvd,
Atten: Nicole Kish
Nyki is an, artist, poet, singer song writer, and adherent community activist. Her music can be found at
Check it out and leave a comment.
support her on facebook.
Or feel free to contact her supporters at firstname.lastname@example.org
“And I want to change the world…”
By Melissa Higgins at
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.