I sat through the case of the Central Park Jogger on channel 13, most people old enough will recall this case involving 4 young African boys and 1 Latino. . Four of the juveniles charged — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, and Kharey Wise — officially confessed to the crime, and each implicated the others. A fifth suspect, Yusef Salaam, made verbal admissions, but refused to sign a confession or make one on videotape. Salaam was, however, implicated by all of the other four and convicted. Salaam’s supporters and attorneys charged on appeal that he had been held by police without access to parents or guardians, but as the majority appellate court decision noted, that was because Salaam had initially lied to police in claiming to be 16, and had backed up his claim with a transit pass that indeed (falsely, as it turned out) said that he was 16. If a suspect has reached 16 years of age, his parents or guardians no longer have a right to accompany him during police questioning, or to refuse to permit him to answer any questions. When Salaam informed police of his true age, police permitted his mother to be present.Wikipedia.
Having been a law enforcement officer and a civilian it was one of the most sobering moments of my life. It brought home to me in a visceral way just how wrong the system can get it when most, or all of us believe that the right man is in custody.
The Central Park Jogger case involved the assault and rape of Trisha Meili, a female jogger in New York City’s Central Park, on April 19, 1989. Five juvenile males—four black and one Hispanic—were tried and convicted for the crime. The convictions were vacated in 2002 when Matias Reyes, a convicted rapist and murderer serving a life sentence for other crimes, claimed to have committed the crime alone and DNA evidence confirmed his involvement in the rape. Wikipedia. This case was a culmination of a perfect storm of events which seemed like it was bound to occur when it did. It involved Racism, Police Impropriety, what undue pressure on police can cause, media that accept what it’s told and not try doing a littler investigation on it’s own and a cornucopia of other variables.
One of the lessons which should have been learned from this case is just how wrong we can get it, when we all in a knee-jerk way accept whatever narrative we have been fed. Sitting there watching and listening to the sequence of events it was rather galling as media clips were played with the media practioners being mere spectators and mouth-pieces for the Government’s case..
The Police department commissioned a lawyer to investigate what had gone wrong with the case, the result was that the investigations revealed that the police department did nothing wrong. Essentially the police department exonerated itself from culpability. The truth is the Police department was too macho and ashamed to admit that as far as the case of the central park jogger case was concerned they got it horribly wrong. This is not new with police departments, and the NYPD is certainly chief among offenders when it comes to issues like these. The case resonated with a crescendo as the 5 young men were being prosecuted, it went out with a whimper as they were exonerated. The law is an ass if the practioners are too egoistical to say we were wrong and we are sorry.
To this very day the woman who prosecuted the case and made a name for herself still stands by the convictions even as all of the evidence shows they were in fact innocent. The 5 young wen were railroaded with threats and cohersion and promises of freedom , they were lured into believing that if each person ratted out the other they would all go home. It was a lie. The police department should have apologized to them but the police is never wrong so no apology has been forthcoming to these men who have been so egregiously wronged. In 2003 the 5 men filed a suit against the city of New York for the harm done to them. Ten years later the case is still in discovery.
For those who talk about justice and democracy, do see this documentary http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/centralparkfive/
Trisha the woman who endured that ordeal of being raped and abused is one of the most sought out inspirational speakers on the lecture circuit. Audiences enjoy Trisha’s energy, wit, and poignant stories about the power of the human spirit. Through her work, book, and lectures, she reaches out to people struggling through recovery from any number of problems, offering Hope and Possibility.