Monday, March 2, 2015

The Central Park Jogger Case

Zuhair Riaz
Political Science 337
Professor Jeffrey Davis
The Central Park Jogger Case

            Throughout the 1980’s, New York was a very different state than it is now. Despite the fact that the economic conditions were just beginning to improve, there was a deep-rooted underclass that was stuck in unfortunate conditions. Crime began to corrupt the neighborhoods and drug lords had begun to sweep through the cities, as cocaine became a prominent drug in New York. As a result, the police department was under an enormous amount of pressure to deal with the current condition of disorder.
            On April 19th 1989, Patricia Meli was jogging in through Central Park when she was attacked. She was severely beaten, raped and left in the Central Park grass to die. She was found, suffering from hypothermia, in the morning. She was braught to the hospital where she was given a very slim chance to survive. The location of the crime combined to the nature of the injuries that Meli suffered ensured that the police department viewed this case and finding the culprits as a priority. After a few days of investigating the police gathered five teenagers: Kevin Richardson (14), Raymond Santana (14), Yusef Salaam (15), Antron McCray (15), and Kharey Wise (16), all of whom are minorities. These teenagers did not know one another nor have they all ever been seen together. The teenagers were at the park the night of the crime, which led the police to bring them in. However, once the teenagers were braught into custody, the five teenagers were coerced into making a confession. They were berated for hours and hours before finally reaching a breaking point. During the interrogation the police force held these teenagers in a closed room and grilled them for over 24 hours. Additionally, these teenagers were interrogated with an attorney present. After empty promises such as, “You can go home soon,” and “It will be over when this is done,” the teenagers finally gave way. All of them gave a verbal confession and, with the exception of Salam, written confession. However, throughout the entire confession process the police force told them what to write. These confessions were a proximate result of hours of berating and coercion on the part of the police force. Despite this, the police department was not the only source of injustice in this case, the state prosecution and media was also a cause of the injustice.

            During the investigation of this case along with the trials, the state prosecutors were just as culpable of injustice in this case. They knew that the confessions of the five teenagers did not add up with one another, thus making them unreliable. Despite this knowledge, the prosecutors proceeded with the case. However, the biggest confirmation of injustice came when the prosecution ignored DNA evidence that cleared the five teenagers. None of the five teenagers’ DNA matched the DNA that was recovered from the crime scene. Despite this knowledge the state continued with the case solely with the intent on framing these five innocent teenagers. They did this due to the fact that they were under pressure to find the culprits. They came under this pressure from the media. It is apparent that the location of the case (Central Park) along with the fact that it was an interracial crime led the media to revolve around the case. This case was extremely public and as a result a lot of pressure was put on the state to convict these five teenagers.

            Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam and Antron McCray each served seven years and Kharey Wise served 13 years. The five were cleared of all indictments after the real culprit stepped up. Matias Reyes came before a court and testified that he was the one who committed the attack and rape. His testimony was verified through his extensive knowledge of the facts of the case. As a result, the innocence of the five teenagers was finally revealed. However, is this mere admission innocence enough to make up for the injustice that was cause? These five teenagers were stripped of their youth, publicly condemned and psychologically scarred. A proclamation of their innocence and a pardon of their indictments do not erase all of the years that the five teenagers wrongly spent in prison. Furthermore, the police department, state prosecutors and media never came out and apologized for their responsibility in this injustice. Despite the fact that the truth came out, it is clear that the injustice that took place during The Central Park Case has not been remedied.

             In an effort to remedy this injustice five teenagers have filed a civil lawsuit in order to get monetary restitution. The judge has since approved a $41 million settlement in an attempt to resolve the injustice. Despite the judge’s attempts, monetary restitution cannot resolve this injustice. One of the ways to remedy the injustice is for the police department to come out and publicly apologize for their actions. This would show remorse for their behavior in this case as well show that they would improve their methods for the future. Any signs of remorse will show that they have will not allowed this injustice again. Additionally, punishment for the police officers that committed these heinous actions is also important to deter other officers from repeating similar acts. 

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