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Central Park Five Civil Suit
On April 19, 1989 a group of five black and Latino teenagers were arrested and convicted for the brutal rape of a white female jogger in Central Park, New York City. It was one of the highest profile criminal cases in the city. A New York court overturned the convictions of the five teenagers after a serial rapist confessed to the crimes. By the time of this confession, the five defendants had already served sentences of between 7 and 13 years. Now, the City of New York is refusing to settle a $250 million decade-long federal civil rights suit brought by the defendants. Attorney Roger Wareham talks more about the case and the Ken Burns documentary on the Central Park Five that could provide footage for the federal civil lawsuit.
Attorney Roger Wareham:
- I’m part of a team of lawyers among five firms that represent the five defendants.
- The victim of the attack almost died. She lost 75 percent of the blood in her body that night.
- The police at some point arrested 30 youths who had allegedly been in the park earlier that night. Some of them were charged with attacking people jogging in the park.
- Most of them had been released; these five were in custody.
- Maybe four or five hours after they were arrested the police received word of this woman who was near death.
- So they held these five children for questioning which basically became an interrogation, which basically became a coerced false confession where each one of them implicated the other ones in the rape and attack of this woman–even though none of them knew each other or what actually happened because they didn’t do it, they just wanted to go home.
- By the time the parents became part of the process, the false statements had already been elicited.
- Especially when a black man is a accused of raping a white woman, logic, justice, objectivity, evidence goes out the window and there’s a presumption of guilt.
- They went to trial and were convicted even though there was no forensic evidence.
- Once they were released from prison they had to register as sexual predators.
- Thirteen years after their conviction, the person who actually committed the crime came forward and admitted he’d done it.
- He was arrested after a failed attempt at a rape. There was an M.O. that he employed with the rapes that he conducted.
- I’m part of a political organization called the December 12 Movement.
- Manhattan’s District Attorney’s office had done a very thorough investigation and this is the same office that had prosecuted them.
- They put forth a really damning affirmation in support of our motion basically admitting they had prosecuted the wrong people, errors had been made. It was clear that the one and only perpetrator was Mateas Raes and they were not going to retry the case.
- Their convictions were overturned 10 years ago, in December 2002.
- Why hasn’t it been settled? You look to Police Commissioner Kelly, who endorsed the report.
- Subpoenaing the outtakes is a reflection of their desperation. See, they know the truth. They’re floundering around looking for different straws to grab at.
Guest – Attorney Roger Wareham has been a lawyer and political activist for over four decades. He is a member of the December 12th Movement, an organization of African people which organizes in the Black and Latino community around human rights violations, particularly police terror. Wareham is also the International Secretary-General of the International Association Against Torture (AICT), a non-governmental organization that has consultative status before the United Nations. Since 1989, he has annually presented evidence of human rights violations facing people of color in the United States and other parts of the world at assemblies of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council (formerly the Commission on Human Rights) and its other bodies that meet in Geneva, Switzerland. His work was instrumental in having Mr. Maurice Glele, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, conduct the first U.N. investigation of the United States in history. Roger Wareham was an active organizer of and participant in the United Nations’ World Conference Against Racism held from August 30-September 7, 2001 in Durban, South Africa.