For nearly 30 years the story of the Central Park Five remains as a testament to one of the most heinous miscarriages of justice the City of New York has ever seen, and that’s saying a great deal. After all, this is the city in which police officers killed Amadou Diallou with a barrage of bullets and where Abner Louima was raped with a plunger while in police custody.
These things are NOT one-off circumstances that only happened to a few misfortunate souls, but rather a testament to the racist apparatus that is the entire criminal justice system, and the overall environment of black scapegoating by the media that was rife in the city in the 80s and 90s, but is much more subtle today.
On Thursday, the 100,000 pages of court, police and prosecution documents connected the Central Park Five case was released to the public. The document dump was three years in the making as lawyers for the city and the five victims engaged in talks over which papers should be released.
Both sides initially believed that there would be twice as many pages made available, but were informed that rest will remain confidential via a court order.
Lawyers of the wronged are agreed to releasing the documents in an effort to help understand how these men, who were children at the time they were charged, were convicted of a crime they didn’t commit. The cynic in me wants to scream “BECAUSE THEY’RE BLACK, DUUUUH!” at the top of my lungs from the highest peak.
Recalling the environment of the day, fear mongering proliferated the nightly news on network television. The faces of black men and boys accused of, or wanted in connection with, violent criminal acts was a regular occurrence.
Calling Yance Ford’s documentary “Strong Island” deeply intimate and the gut-wrenching portrait of a family would be something of a misnomer. It is that, and more. The film was ten years in the making and documents the investigation undertaken by Ford into the shooting death of his brother William Jr.
Also, it was three years after 23-year-old Michael Griffith was struck by a vehicle as he fled a mob of white racists in Howard Beach, six years after 32-year-old MTA worker Willie Turks was pulled from his vehicle and stomped to death in Brooklyn because he and co-workers stopped in a white neighborhood to get a bagel, and 16-year-old Yusuf Hawkins was killed by a mob of racist whites in Bensonhurst in December of the same year.
The historic cheapening of black life by the citizens of New York in general and the criminal justice system, in particular, was so obvious to anyone who cared to pay attention.
Additionally, Donald Trump’s now infamous full-page ad in the New York Times using the Central Park Five case as an impetus for the return of the death penalty in the city of New York definitely had a great deal to do with it as well. You best believe that.
Lawyers for the men said they want as many documents released, so more can be learned about why their clients were convicted of crimes they didnt commit.
About 12,000 pages went up Thursday on a site set up by the city.
The parties had originally believed 200,000 pages would be made public, but only 100,000 will see the light of day because the rest will remain confidential pursuant to court order, party agreements and applicable statutes, a source close to the talks said.
The city website divided documents to be released into six categories: federal civil litigation; incarceration and parole records; miscellaneous; NYPD re-investigation; Manhattan DA re-investigation; and original investigation and prosecution.
Five black and Hispanic men Antron McCray, 15 at the time, Kevin Richardson, 14, Yusef Salaam, 15, Raymond Santana, 14, and Korey Wise, 16 were convicted of raping a jogger as she ran through the north end of Central Park on April 19, 1989.
The men were released in 2002, and their convictions vacated, after serial rapist Matias Reyes, who was already doing life for murder, confessed to the crime.
Reyes DNA matched semen taken off the victim. Despite the evidence, Donald Trump still believes it’s possible that these men were involved. The thickheaded, race-motivated stubbornness is par for the course for Trump and his ilk whenever black and brown faces are concerned.
The men were released from prison and sued the city in 2003. They finally settled in 2012 for $41 million.