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2002-12-06

"We Wanted Our Children to Be Professionals. We Wanted Our Children to Be Lawyers and Doctors and School Teachers. We Wanted for All Children What All People Want for Their Children": The Mothers and

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Donald Trump had called for their execution. The New York Post described them as a "teen wolfpack." And one New York police detective reportedly still refers to them as "mutts."

They are the Central Park Five, five African-American and Latino young men who were convicted a decade ago in a brutal rape and near murder of a woman in Central Park.

Yesterday the state essentially admitted they had convicted and jailed the wrong men.

In a historic motion, the Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau yesterday asked a judge to vacate the convictions of the men. The decision came in light of new evidence that showed the attack was carried out alone by a serial rapist named Matias Reyes.

Reyes admitted earlier this year that he had raped and nearly beat the woman to death on the night of April 19, 1989. DNA testing matched Reyes and no else to the crime scene. A new investigation by the DA’s office has uncovered no biological or physical evidence that implicated anyone else.

The Central Park Five gave videotaped confessions. But their testimony was deeply flawed. At times they were wrong on when, where and how the attack took place. Nonetheless two different juries convicted the men on a variety of charges including attempted murder and rape.

Cries from the family and defense attorneys that the young men’s confessions were coerced by police were ignored.

The case now goes forward to state Supreme Court Justice Charles Tejada. He will rule on the DA’s recommendation by February. Defense attorneys have called for an expedited decision.

Defense attorney Roger Wareham said the case represents a real indictment of the criminal justice system in New York City and the United States. Ironically 13 years ago when the story of the attack first emerged then Mayor Edward Koch noted the Central Park Jogger case would indeed be a test of the system. Koch said, "I think that everybody here–maybe across the nation–will look at this case to see how the criminal justice system works. How will this be handled? This is, I think, putting the criminal justice system on trial."

As Jim Dwyer writes in The New York Times, "The verdict is in: The system failed."

At a press conference yesterday the mothers of the Central Park Five assailed the New York Police Department for failing to properly investigate the crime, as well as the media, for demonizing the innocent men.

Tape:

  • Sharonne Salaam, the mother of Yusef Salem. Yesterday the Manhattan DA recommended dismissing his conviction of first-degree rape and robbery. He served 6 1/2 years in prison. Sharonne is the founder and director of People United for Children, a grassroots organization dedicated to building bridges between incarcerated children and their communities.
  • Angela Cuffee, brother of Kevin Richardson, who served 6 1/2 years in prison. He was convicted as a juvenile of second-degree attempted murder, first degree sodomy, first degree rape and first degree robbery. He was sentenced to five to 10 years.
  • Joanne Santana, her younger brother Raymond Santana served eight years in jail for his alleged connection in the Central Park Jogger case. Yesterday the Manhattan DA recommended dismissing conviction of first-degree rape and robbery. He was jailed again on Oct. 19, 1999, on charges of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and is not scheduled to be released until July 26, 2003. However, his attorneys maintain that he would be immediately freed if his Central Park jogger convictions were overturned. Attorney Richard Wareham, who will be joining us later in the show, announced yesterday that the defense had requested state Supreme Court Justice Charles Tejada to expedite his ruling to overturn the convictions. His attorneys hope an expedited decision will be made by Monday.
  • Linda McCray, mother of Antron, who was convicted as a juvenile of first-degree rape and robbery and sentenced to up to 10 years. He was released on Sept. 24, 1996, after serving six years.
  • Deloris Wise, mother of Kharey Wise who was released in August of this year after serving 11 1/2 years in prison. He was convicted as an adult of first-degree sexual abuse, first degree-assault and first-degree riot.

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