The other scandal of the Central Park Five


The case of the Central Park Five has become famous as a miscarriage of justice. After a 28-year old white female jogger was brutally raped in Central Park in 1989, so badly that she was traumatized and could not even remember what happened, five black youths, four of them under 16 and one was just 16, were arrested, tried, and convicted for the crime, largely based on confessions they made during interrogations without their parents or lawyers being present.

In 2001 Matias Reyes, already in prison and serving a life sentence for other crimes, confessed to the rape and DNA evidence confirmed his involvement. The five were exonerated and their convictions were vacated in 2002. In 2014, the city of New York settled a lawsuit against them for $41 million. During the height of the coverage, Donald Trump put out a full page ad calling for the reinstating of the death penalty for the five and even now does not accept that he was wrong. Other commentators like Pat Buchanan said that there should be a public hanging of the 16-year old in Central Park.

In an interview broadcast yesterday, a reporter who covered the original trial says that although he saw discrepancies in the evidence that cast doubt on the guilt of the five and reported them at the time, he now regrets that he did not more aggressively pursue that line of inquiry.

But there is a lesser-reported problem other than that of the false conviction. Reyes, described by those who studied him as a ‘pure psychopath’, had committed another rape just two days prior to this one and after his arrest confessed to one murder, five rapes, two attempted rapes, and a string of muggings. Some of these crimes occurred after the celebrated case and illustrates why it is so dangerous when prosecutors try to close a case by coercing confessions because once the case is closed, the actual culprit continues to roam free and can commit yet more crimes.

Comments

  1. says

    Mano,

    This has always been a problem for me.

    Every time we convict the wrong person, the right person remains at large to continue to endanger the lives of the very people the legal service exists to protect.

    I wonder now if the victims or families of the victims of Reye’s crimes committed after the beating and rape of the jogger were ever able to seek compensation from New York City.

    Jeff

  2. dsingham says

    I believe those wrongfully accused were awarded millions by New York City. Not sure about the jogger herself, though she wrote a memoir in 2003. I listened to a podcast on this case -- My Favorite Murder covered it in detail.