Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis of the U.S District Court of Manhattan approved a $41 million settlement last Friday for the 1990 conviction of the Central Park Five.
The settlement stems from the wrongful sentencing of five black and Hispanic boys who were accused for the rape and beating of a female jogger in Central Park in 1989.
During the hearings, the boys, who were between the ages of 14 and 16 at the time, admitted to being involved in assaults throughout the park — all of which, however, were of a lesser degree and unrelated to the attack on the jogger. They claimed that the incriminating statements they had previously given had been coerced and always maintained their innocence throughout the trial, as well as their imprisonment.
The victim, a 28-year-old investment banker, was assaulted to the point of unconsciousness and consequently left with no recollection of her attacker(s).
It wasn't until twelve years later, long after three of the young men had already completed their sentences, that Matias Reyes, a serial rapist and murderer, came forward and confessed that he had acted alone in the raping of Trisha Meili. A new investigation ordered by the district attorney's office later provided DNA information that confirmed Reyes' involvement.
Despite the transparent negligence on behalf of the prosecutors and detectives responsible, the city of New York is denying all liabilities. In a statement released shortly after the news of the settlement, Corporation Counsel Zachary W. Carter said that the agreement "should not be construed as an acknowledgment that the convictions of these five plaintiffs were the result of law enforcement misconduct."
But how else do you explain such a calamitous mistake?
The "evidence" obtained lacked any real validity or cohesiveness. In the boys' confessions, which they were evidently compelled by force or intimidation to give, their accounts of the attack varied across the board, from the location, description of the victim and weapons used. I'm convinced that discrepancies such as these would, and probably have been, enough to re-evaluate an entire case.
However, the prosecutors seemed to have their minds made up on using this particular group of young men as scapegoats.
It was also noted by Roger Wareham, the attorney who represented three of the boys, that Reyes had committed another assault a few days prior to the attack on the jogger.
Had authorities carried out their investigation justly, the uncanny similarities between both crimes would've immediately given way to the possibility of a different culprit.
In a court filing, the lawyers who investigated Reyes' confession stated that "ultimately, there proved to be no physical or forensic evidence recovered at the scene or from the person or effects of the victim which connected the defendants to the attack on the jogger, or could establish how many perpetrators participated."
The audacity of the city of New York to relieve itself and its authorities of any wrongdoing in light of their obvious dishonesty is nonsensical and almost laughable.
All members of the Central Park Five, now in their late 30s and early 40s, have each been awarded $1 million for each year that they spent incarcerated.
Although their charges have been exonerated and compensated for, no amount of justice will bring back those years that they painfully spent in prison.