I’m certain many of you remember the Central Park West Jogger case in New York. I sure do. “Wilding” and “wolfpack” were words used the media used to describe it. In 1990 five Black and Latino teens — Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray and Kharey Wise — were wrongfully convicted of raping, sodomizing and brutally beating a white woman who was jogging in Central Park shortly after 9 p.m. on April 19, 1989. They spent from six to 13 years in prison for a crime they did not commit. Keeping up with the trial I was shocked at how it was allowed to continue on with no direct evidence or even circumstantial evidence that could put those boys at the scene of the crime.
In 2002, their convictions were overturned, and they were acquitted following a confession by the actual rapist, Matias Reyes, a murderer and serial rapist whose DNA actually matched the evidence found on the victim’s clothing, unlike none, and I repeat NONE, of the DNA samples taken from any of the five following the NYPD’s unjustifiably botched up, bullet hole-ridden investigation of the case. It was a horrific crime, that I as a female and a fellow human being felt to the core of my soul…but Kevin, Yusef, Raymond, Antron and Kharey hadn’t done it.
After being exonerated, the young men filed a federal lawsuit for $250 million that claimed, amongst other things, that they were railroaded, maliciously prosecuted, wrongfully imprisoned and that their civil rights had been violated. But instead of exacting justice, the lawsuit has caused the five to be victimized a second time by past and by the present Bloomberg administration who refuse to acknowledge the Five’s proven innocence and contend that the NYPD and the District Attorney’s office did nothing wrong in arresting the teens, coercing confessions from them and prosecuting them back in 1990.
For the last 10 years, requests for records and documents from the case have been met with statements such as the files cannot be located or are too old and deteriorated to read. This bull has resulted in major time and money wasted by the prosecutor’s office. It is for these reasons that U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis, who presently presides over the case regarding the lawsuit has now set specific deadlines for records to be presented. The bureaucracy is suffocating.
You would think Bloomberg would want to go out on a good note with a city that has made him a billionaire. You know, show us and other large city municipalities what an administration looks like when its wants to improve relations with its citizens by rectifying once and for all, the sloppy crudeness in which this case was handled in the bygone era of the 90’s. But I suppose that kind of thinking opens up way to many closets hiding way too many skeletons. This may be 2013, but we’re still a long way from initiating change to some things that are in desperate need of it.
The pressure is on though, with the broadcast of a documentary on the case by filmmaker Ken Burns. It airs on PBS on April 16.
The film ‘The Central Park Five’, opens with an audio of Reyes describing how he savagely beat and raped the jogger late that night in 1989, in New York’s Central Park. Starting the film off with that horrible, truthful preface it then proceeds with the story of how five totally individuals, unrelated to Reyes and unrelated to any part of the incident other than being in the park that day, were picked up, held and grilled for 24 hours and ended up being convicted for one of the most heinous crimes in New York City’s history.