FBI SITE: Hiding behind the Colour
of Law. Unethical prosecutors use these techniques: False confessions, eyewitness misidentification and criminal informants given benefits
for their testimony account for most wrongful convictions.
OFFSITE: Justice for the Central Park 5
Have a look at the faces of the arresting cops. What is on their minds? White woman raped by blacks.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Three young men who spent 7 years in jail for the notorious 1989 rape of a Central Park jogger before their convictions were overturned, filed $50 million lawsuits on Monday, claiming the district attorney's office, police and others violated their civil rights.
Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana Jr. and their families filed the suit in Manhattan federal court almost a year after a state court threw out the convictions of the three men and two others in one of the city's most racially charged criminal cases.
The highly publicized case was about the rape of a white female jogger, who was found unconscious and beaten in the city's most popular park. She spent two weeks in a coma, never fully recovered and has permanent neurological damage including balance problems, headaches and double vision.
McCray, Richardson and Santana, who were 14 at the time, along with Kharey Wise, then 16, and Yusef Salaam, then 15, were convicted of rape, assault, robbery and riot for attacking the jogger as well as a couple on a tandem bicycle, two male joggers and a homeless man.
Evidence later uncovered -- the confession of a serial rapist that he alone attacked the 28-year-old jogger, backed up by DNA tests - resulted in the dismissal of the convictions.
By then, McCray, Richardson and Santana - all black - had served seven years in prison.
Among those listed as defendants in the suit are the city of New York, the New York City Police Department, the New York County District Attorney's Office and District Attorney Robert Morgtenthau. A number of officials who worked on the case were also named in the suit.
5 to 15 years Served 8
The suit states the three men were victims of an "illegal arrest, confinement and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and wrongful conviction" and seeks $50 million on behalf of each of them.
The lawsuit said the incident caused "grievous permanent injury, including more than 7 years of imprisonment in prison, and the attendant loss of freedom, companionship and income; mental and physical pain, suffering, anguish, fear, and humiliation and defamation of character and reputation which was caused by their public branding as rapists."
McCray, Richardson, Santana, Wise and Salaam were convicted largely on the basis of confessions made to police after the attack. Wise or Salaam are not part of the lawsuit filed on Monday.
In all, 38 years of prison... for nothing
Lawyers for the five teenagers convicted in the 1989 rape and near-fatal attack on a jogger in Central Park claimed yesterday that the youths have been cleared because DNA and a confession have linked a convicted rapist and murderer to the crime.
5 to 10 years Served 6
"These young men are innocent," said defense attorney Michael Warren, who is seeking to have the guilty verdicts against Kevin Richardson, Anton McCray and Raymond Santana thrown out. "There is injustice here."
Two other defendants, Yusef Salaam and Kharey Wise, also are expected to ask that their convictions be vacated. All five - four of whom were under 16 at the time -- have served their sentences in the rape. Santana remains in prison on an unrelated drug charge. The five were accused of attacking the jogger, an investment banker, on April 19, 1989. The woman was beaten, raped and left for dead on a muddy ravine, authorities said.
In January, however, Matias Reyes, 31, who is serving 33⅓ years to life for raping four women and killing a pregnant woman in June 1989, confessed to the jogger's rape. He has since given statements to prosecutors and defense lawyers.
5 to 10 years Served 6½
"I was drawn by her appearance and I just had to have her," Reyes says in a notarized statement for the defense on Aug. 23, explaining how he saw the jogger from the 102nd Street entrance to the park.
"At one point, I picked up a tree branch ... A short distance later, I hit her over the head with the tree branch. She fell down and I dragged her into a bushy area ... I took off her clothing ... grabbed her again ... beat her with a rock."
The Manhattan district attorney's office said it is investigating Reyes' claims. Papers defense lawyers filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan said Reyes was interviewed by prosecutors several times and was taken to Central Park "where he described the areas of the park where he attacked" the victim.
The court papers also claim that DNA links Reyes to the victim and that Reyes claims he acted alone. "There are a number of different things that could have happened," a law enforcement source said yesterday. "He could have come onto the scene afterward, before or even during ... What you have to do is figure it out and that's what we're doing."
5 to 15 years Served 11½
The source said prosecutors always said there was DNA evidence that did not match the defendants. At the same time, all five teens gave written and/or videotaped statements incriminating themselves in the attack, including admissions by several that they held the victim while others raped her.
Three of the defendants were convicted of rape and assault and sentenced as juveniles to 5 to 10 years. Richardson was convicted of attempted murder, rape and sodomy and received 5 to 10 years. Wise, who was 16 at the time, was convicted of assault and sexual abuse and sentenced to 5 to 15 years.
But defense attorneys say Reyes' involvement exonerates their clients. "If Reyes did it, then it is almost unimaginable that a group of kids out on a wilding in the park had anything to do with him," said Myron Beldock, who represents Salaam. "He was older. He was completely different. He was a man who was into violent rape."
5 to 15 years Served 6½
The attorneys also noted there was no forensic evidence linking the jogger and young men. "The only evidence that linked them to the crime was statements taken from each," Warren said in his papers. "The statements, however, were taken by second-grade seasoned detectives, with 20 to 30 years on the job, who in effect separated these children from their parents for hours, ultimately securing statements from each of them through coercion, psychological duress and manipulation."
Attorney Roger Wareham, co-counsel, added he believes the prosecution was driven by racism. "There are many inconsistencies that were pointed out during the trial but really were ignored because the overriding issue was a white woman had been raped by blacks and Latinos and there was going to be a conviction," he said.
OFFSITE: The False Confessions in the Central Park Jogger Case:
How they happened, and how to stop similar injustices from happening again
By ELAINE CASSEL
Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau must decide by October 21 how to respond to the extraordinary disclosures of earlier this month about the Central Park Jogger case. Though five black and Latino teenagers were convicted and spent many years in jail for the 1989 rape and near murder of a white woman jogging in Central Park, it was publicly revealed this month that another man has confessed to the attack and claims to have acted alone. And recent DNA analysis of evidence from the crime scene fails to tie the teenagers to the attack.
One of the most troubling issues confronting Mr. Morgenthau and the public in this case arises from the videotaped confessions obtained by the New York City Police Department from the teenagers. Those confessions, which were detailed and given in the presence of parents, were introduced at trial and undoubtedly contributed significantly to the resulting convictions.
The teenagers and their families, however, claim that the confessions were coerced, the result of illegal and improper police interrogations that took place before the videotaping of the confessions. The recent disclosures lend considerable credibility to these charges.
This controversy points to the need for a fundamental reform of police practices: the NYPD must start videotaping interrogations of suspects in serious crimes. This simple reform will help eliminate coercive interrogation practices and will help police and prosecutors respond to false allegations of coercion.
There is every reason to believe that unreliable confessions are a substantial problem in law enforcement. In the most thorough investigation so far, the Chicago Tribune last December reported hundreds of cases in Chicago that involved coerced or otherwise improper confessions since 1991. Earlier this year The Washington Post chronicled abusive interrogations practices in Prince Georges County, Maryland that produced false confessions. And state supreme courts in Minnesota and Alaska have ordered that interrogations in those states be recorded to assure that defendants are not being coerced into false confessions. Far too often, cops pressure suspects by lying about evidence or about the statements of supposed accomplices; by making false promises of leniency; by denying suspects access to lawyers and parents; and by taking advantage of their age, fatigue or simple fear.
Though there has not yet been a systematic review of confessions in New York, even prior to the Central Park Jogger case, several highly-publicized cases involved allegedly coerced confessions that proved false. For instance, earlier this year the government told a federal judge in Manhattan that an Egyptian man named Abdallah Higazy had confessed to owning a ground-to-air radio that allegedly was found in his room in the ruins of a hotel abutting upon the World Trade Center. Targeted as a terrorist who facilitated the attacks of September 11th, the Higazy insisted that his "confession" was coerced, but he was released only after a pilot came forward to claim the radio and after a hotel security guard admitted that he had lied about the radio being in Higazy's room. The government has yet to explain how it obtained the "confession," though Higazy says he made statements only after he and his family were repeatedly threatened during an hours-long interrogation outside the presence of his lawyer.
Before that was the case of Bently Grant, a homeless man arrested by the NYPD in July 2000 and charged with smashing a chuck of concrete into the back of the head of social-work student Tiffany Goldberg in midtown Manhattan. After approximately 20 hours of interrogation with no lawyer present, Grant allegedly "confessed" and was held without bail on charges of attempted murder. Prompted by the doubts about the confession by an assistant district attorney, a further investigation led to a videotape of a Virgin Records store that showed Mr. Grant and exonerated him.
In New York, a precedent already exists for the recording of interrogations by the NYPD. When a police officer or other member of the Department is suspected of wrongdoing, the NYPD is entitled to interrogate the officer. Before starting such an interrogation, however, the Department is required to turn on a tape recorder, the entire interrogation is taped, and the tape is preserved. If this is good enough for cops, it is good enough for New Yorkers who face felony charges that might lead to lengthy imprisonment and perhaps even the death penalty.
Thirty five years ago the United States Supreme Court observed, "We have learned the lesson of history, ancient and modern, that a system of criminal law enforcement which comes to depend upon the 'confession' will, in the long run, be less reliable and more subject to abuses than a system which depends on extrinsic evidence independently secured through skillful investigation." As a society, we have an interest in bringing criminals to justice; however, we have no legitimate interest in concealing abusive interrogations that lead to false confessions.
One of the most savage entries in New York's crime annals - the 1989 Central Park wilding attack on a female jogger - may have to be rewritten after DNA testing now clearly points to a new suspect, the Daily News has learned.
New DNA analysis has confirmed that genetic evidence taken from the victim belongs to a convicted rapist and murderer who first admitted to the attack in January.
What's more, key pieces of physical evidence that swayed juries in two racially charged trials to convict five teens are being discredited through DNA tests.
The new testing was done with forensic technology not available when the case was tried.
Law enforcement sources said these tests show hair found on one youth is not from the victim, as prosecutors had said.
They also said blood - believed to be from the jogger - found on a stone allegedly used in the attack is not hers.
Other physical evidence introduced at the trials included grass- and dirt-stained clothing that prosecutors said came from the scene.
The viciousness of the April 19, 1989, attack, in which the jogger, a white investment banker then 28, was brutally beaten, sexually assaulted and left for dead, stunned New Yorkers and flamed racial tensions.
The black and Hispanic youths, ranging in age from 14 to 17, were initially among some 30 teens who were picked up after rampaging through Central Park that night, assaulting as many as nine people.
They described their escapade as "wilding" and later were reported to have sung a streetcorner hit called "Wild Thing" from their cells.
Eventually, they confessed to attacking or sexually abusing the jogger - but all said later that the confessions had been coerced.
Yesterday, a lawyer for defendants Antron McCray, Raymond Santana and Kevin Richardson said he has taken court action to reverse the convictions.
"It was a great miscarriage of justice," said the attorney, Michael Warren.
The others convicted, Yusef Salaam and Kharey Wise, are expected to follow suit, according to an adviser, City Councilman Bill Perkins (D-Harlem).
"From their point of view ... they were falsely convicted and sentenced for a crime they did not commit, which has blemished them and their families," Perkins said.
Barbara Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney, said the office "is conducting a thorough review of the Central Park jogger case." She declined further comment.
But a law enforcement source familiar with the case said, "It's an [open] question whether the outcome of the original case can survive this new information.
"There was no forensic connection to the defendants," Warren said. "They were prosecuted mainly on manipulated confessions and the emotions of the day."
Con says he did it
The case was reopened this year after convict Matias Reyes suddenly admitted to the crime.
Reyes, serving 33⅓ years to life for the rape and murder of a woman on the upper East Side in June 1989, said he attacked the Central Park jogger two months before.
Finding God, he said, compelled him to come forward.
"I had to get this off my chest. I had to do one thing right in my life," sources said Reyes told authorities. "I feel bad about this."
Reyes said he was alone in the park when he saw the woman running on a deserted section of the 102nd St. Transverse.
He said he hit her in the head with a piece of wood and dragged her down a ravine, where he raped her and beat her senseless.
Because this account matches part of the confessions given by the teenagers, authorities aren't sure whether Reyes was alone or attacked the woman with the youths.
The victim, now 41, is married, living in Connecticut and writing a book about her life and recovery.
She was in a coma for 12 days and has no memory of the attack.
CONTINUED > > >: When Justice Is a Game | Malicious Investigation | A Journey Through the Tangled Case of the Central Park Jogger