Awhile back, I talked about a topic that’s back in the news with the limited release of Ken Burn’s latest documentary, the Central Park Five.
Over 23 years after the high-profile 1989 rape case of a jogger in New York’s Central Park, fallout from the case continues.
For those who don’t know: On April 19, 1989, just after 9 pm, Trisha Meili, was jogging alone in Central Park when she was hit on the head with a tree branch, brutally raped, beaten, and left for dead. Fortunately, she survived.
Within days, five black and Latino teenagers quote-unquote “confessed” to the crime and the public reaction to the vicious rape of a white, Ivy-League professional was huge.
The media repeatedly described these 14 to 16 year olds as a roving “wolf pack” out “wilding” in the park. Pat Buchanan suggested a public lynching in Central Park of one of the teens as a deterrent to others.
The five were convicted after being manipulated by police into confessing despite the fact no DNA tests or eyewitnesses tied them to the victim.
In 2002, after the young men had served lengthy prison terms, convicted serial rapist and murderer Matias Reyes confessed to committing the crime alone and DNA evidence matched his story.
In 2003, the convictions were vacated and the five sued, but the case has yet to be settled by the city of New York. In fact, to this day, the NYPD has never admitted to mishandling the case, and the prosecutors whose careers were made by this case have not publicly acknowledged their mistakes.
The city of New York even recently subpoenaed the filmmakers of The Central Park Five as a way of derailing the documentary.
Not to mention the real rapist kept on attacking and murdering area women while the Central Park 5 were falsely in jail.
This case–like the Trayvon Martin case–was driven by stereotypes and says so much about us as a community. It speaks to our ultimate fears and sadly reminds us of how far we have yet to go in this country.
This could have been any one of our children they were unjustly persecuted by the system because a heinous crime had been committed against an affluent white woman within a racially polarized city, and the elected officials wanted to play politics and make examples and these five Harlem teens apparently “fit the bill.”
It’s disgusting and we need to keep focusing on this case until it is made right. Let’s push New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg to drop the subpoena against filmmaker Ken Burns and authorize the prompt settlement of this suit by calling 311 (if you’re in New York City) or call 212-NEW-YORK, that’s 212- 639-9675 (outside the city).
I’ll end with these recent words from the Huffington Post penned by freelancer Lisa Bernier:
“Go see The Central Park Five. Watch the interviews…Look into their eyes. Hear their voices. And work, by writing to the city, and by spreading their story to ensure that this city never betray five of its children ever again.”