Justice for the Central Park Five

Khorey Wise during his 1989 trial. Image courtesy of PBS.com

Khorey Wise during his 1989 trial. Image courtesy of PBS.com

On the night of April 19, 1989, a White female jogger, later identified as Trisha Melli, was found unconscious, beaten, and raped in Central Park.  By morning, three youths were arrested: Yusef Salaam, 15, Raymond Santana, 14, and Anton McCray, 15. The boys were interrogated and held at the Central Park Precinct for the night, without their parents or attorney. Two other boys, Kevin Richardson, 14, and Kharey Wise, 16, were also later arrested, interrogated, and coerced by the police officers into confessions. All of them were convicted with sentences ranging from six and a half years for the juveniles for rape and robbery, to eleven and a half years for Wise, eldest at 16, who was convicted as an adult for sexual assault, first-degree assault, first-degree riot and sent to Riker’s Island to fulfill his sentence.

In 2002, the Manhattan district attorney Robert Morganthau, successfully had the convictions overturned after the confession from Matias Reyes, whose spree of rape continued during their trail. However, twenty-five years later their wrongful conviction has not been settled by the state of New York. Last year, Mayor de Blasio made a campaign promise for a swift settlement for the Central Park 5 of their wrongful arrest and imprisonment.

In spite of the young men being exonerated, this has not changed the culture of the law enforcement agency. Black men and boys were targeted in the late 1980’s with the creation of the NYPD Street Crime Unit, which allowed the city’s illegal stop and frisk policy targeting Black and Latino males, with the trajectory towards a generation of incarcerated black youth. If one were to review cases from the late 1980s of other black youths convicted, how many of them were wrongfully sent to prison? We need to reinforce the American Dream and invest in their future; incarcerated black youths need a chance at a better life through the reinstatement of counseling, job skills and GED programs.

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3 Comments

  1. tiffany kipps

     /  October 8, 2014

    This is a very interesting post. I think the justice system in America is very racist and disproportionatly unfair to people of color. A system design to protect and serve all should be inclusive to all groups. There gas been countless policies made by the justice system that unfairly target people of color: stop and frisk, the war on drugs, and the list goes on. central park 5 was bad time for NYPD, since the incident, this department has yet to mend its relationship with communities of color. And the latest scandals surrounding numerous police departments has only reaffirmed this fact. The only way to impove races relations within the justice department is for communities of color to organize and address these issue. Until then we will continue to have more Central Park 5s and Fergusons.

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  2. Mesha

     /  November 10, 2014

    I recently watched a documentary on The Central Park 5 case. In the documentary they showed footage from the interrogation room. I remember feeling disgusted at the pressure to confess, put on the teenagers by the integrator. I believe the police officers were so blinded their personal biases and need to solve the case that they forgot that these were kids. It’s no secret that the justice system is flawed and not favorable to people of color. Though this happened over 20 year ago, this is still a prevalent issue we deal with today’s society. We need to continue to address the injustice within the criminal justice system, for if we don’t our youth will continue to fall victim to such a flawed system.

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  3. yes, and learn to work together. Thank you for your comment. Virginia Lynch Dean

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