On April 20, 1989, Trisha Meili was found in Central Park unconscious, badly beaten, raped and partially clothed. The NYPD then rounded up several young men who happened to be in the area at that time. Although there was a lack of DNA, no eyewitnesses and conflicting confessions, Kevin Richardson (14), Raymond Santana (14), Yusef Salaam (15), Antron McCray (15) and Korey Wise (16) were found guilty of rape in a jury trial and sent to prison. They were soon to become known as the “Central Park 5″ (CP5).
The CP5 spent years in prison before the real perpetrator confessed and their sentences were vacated in 2002.
Last April, noted documentarian Ken Burns debuted his Central Park Five documentary on PBS. The documentary delved into the tactics used to coerce the CP5, as well as nterviews from the five men, footage and newspaper clippings from that time. According to filmmaker Ken Burns, who made a documentary on the Central Park Five case, New York Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio plans to settle the $250M civil suit filed by the men known as the “Central Park Five”.
“Bill de Blasio, the mayor-elect, has agreed to settle this case,” Burns told the Huffington Post on Tuesday, “and though this is justice delayed way too long, and that is justice denied, [they] will not only be exonerated … but they will have justice, they will see some closure, they will be able to be made whole.”
The civil suit the CP5 have filed is worth $250 million dollars. The next hearing on the case, that was set before de Blasio’s comments, was scheduled for January 21, but a Manhattan federal judge put the lawsuit on hold, so new city Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter could reach a settlement with the Central Park 5.
Not everyone is too pleased to hear about the men getting a settlement.
The New York Post recently penned an “unnamed” editorial citing their reasons as to why a settlement would a “miscarriage of justice”.
A panel headed by famed anti-corruption prosecutor Michael Armstrong concluded that the five had “more likely than not” participated in the jogger attack — and certainly engaged in a violent series of “wilding” assaults in Central Park that night that left two other persons seriously injured.
Moreover, the trial jury knew that no DNA evidence connected them to the crime. Indeed, they’d also been told another unknown assailant had taken part in the attack. And Reyes, who was never questioned under oath before the convictions were tossed, reportedly told a fellow inmate that “a group of kids” had attacked the jogger before he came along.
The five, teenagers at the time, were convicted largely on the strength of their graphic and detailed confessions, which they later recanted but which were captured on videotape in the presence of their parents or guardians. Some repeated their confessions years later at parole hearings. And even Morgenthau himself concluded that, contrary to the five’s later allegations, there had been no coercion or misconduct in the way their confessions had been obtained.
Ken Burns turned the case into a cause célèbre with his advocacy film on the case (his daughter had worked for the lawyers for the accused). The City Council also tried to up the ante by honoring the five.
Against this public pressure, The Post stood virtually alone in opposing both the hasty overturning of their convictions and in making a huge cash settlement.
They may well have been innocent of the Central Park jogger rape. But these are no innocent victims. And they don’t deserve the keys to the city treasury.
It’s a shame that a newspaper is willing to stand behind what really was a “miscarriage of justice”, that allowed the CP5 to be jailed for years.