October 23, 2002

Big Ass Update

Several good or provocative articles have recently been written about the Central Park 5 and their quest for justice . So here’s a big ass update from several news articles and columns posted in the past week. I will write about how much of a jackass Andrea Peyser is in a later post.

Newsday columnist Sheryl McCarthy follows up on an earlier story:

Race, Gender Issues Collide in the Jogger Case

[...] It seems ironic that feminists are raising the issue of whether the defendants got justice, since back in 1990 their main concern was the victim. During the trials, when the young men's defenders claimed that they were being framed because of their race, that in an emotionally overheated climate, there'd been a rush to judgment, women's groups replied that rape, not race, was the issue.

Now they admit that race was an issue in this case and that its presence may have helped to deny justice to both the victim and the accused.

"Given all the new information that's come out around this case, we felt it was important for feminists to make a statement," Fran Luck, coordinator of the Street Harassment Project, told me.

"We were very angry at what's starting to look, at the very least, like bungling by the DA's office, both in terms of the real and terrible injustice done to the five young men who were tried and convicted. . . and the fact that investigations that aren't thorough, that may be media driven, may be career driven, and are driven by racial profiling . . . all of this doesn't help protect women against rapists."

This also caught my eye in the column:

[...] The press and the police fueled a vision of dark hoards swooping down from Harlem to rape white women and steal white wallets.

Now that the case against the teenagers is disintegrating, it's clear that the kind of miscarriage of injustice that occured in Depression-era Alabama, when nine black men were wrongly convicted of raping two white prostitutes, could still happen in 1990s New York.

Not that the feminists were totally wrong in 1990. They knew that rape victims were usually blamed for what happened to them, and their need to defend the rights of rape victims was completely understandable. But there's also "this whole terrible history of black men being railroaded on totally racist grounds, with rape being used," Luck said.

Can't remember where I read it, but someone inclined to believe that the teens were railroaded took exception to some of the statments and/or tactics "supporters" of the boys made/engaged in. She (my memory is faulty right now, but I believe it was a woman blogger) thought they needed to be reprimanded by other People of Color. While I understand her sentiments, it's wrongheaded. Should wealthy white people apologize for the hostile environment Donald Trump's race-baiting ads caused at the time? What about Jews? Do they claim responsibility for the racist hostility and hatred engendered in Ed Koch's venomous remarks at the time?

The main point of McCarthy’s column?

Yes, the jogger case was about rape. But it was also about race. And we're seeing firsthand what happens when the two collide, distorting reality in the process.

Also in Newsday, Leonard Levitt is Eyeing the Law's Role in Jogger Case.

Too bad he starts off with incorrect assertions:

Thirteen years after five black teenagers were convicted of raping a white female jogger in Central Park...

Informed followers of the case will note that three of the Black teens (McCray, Richardson and Salaam) were convicted of rape along with Latino Raymond Santana. Wise was convicted on a single sexual abuse charge.

I do appreciate the article's comments from Eric Adams as they are pretty close to my own sentiments:

Eric Adams, a police lieutenant who heads 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, is only one of many voices asking how the five teenagers were convicted, given the lack of physical evidence at the time and the fact that investigators have now determined that another man committed the rape.

"I think those boys committed a crime in Central Park by committing assaults or even robbing somebody," Adams said. "But often, some of us in law enforcement believe, 'So what if they are not the right guys, they are just as guilty.' When it comes to a person of color, often, when they cannot find a person guilty, anyone will do. History will bare this out."

But don't hold your breath waiting for an independent investigation.

While as a public servant Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau is probably as good as it gets, he is in his third decade and doesn't easily relinquish power.

I have no admiration for DA Morgenthau given his inaction when justice cries out and because of his long history of ignoring People of Color and their rights. At 83, Comatose Bob has served well past his prime and usefulness.

But he isn't the only one that should face tough questions about their role in the frameup:

Was Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Lederer influenced into acquiescing to the admissions because of the overheated racial rhetoric of the time? Recall that the jogger rape occurred just two years after the Rev. Al Sharpton came forward with the Tawana Brawley hoax that she had been raped by a group of white men. Or that the Amsterdam News, in violation of an unwritten journalistic practice, published the rape victim's name, the city's only media outlet to do so.

"The public is not aware that the confession process is not [a] single event where a person says, 'I did or did not do an act,'" Adams said. "It occurs in phases. The first phase is the questioning phase, then verbal acknowledgment, ending in the tape-recording process. An interrogation can wear down the best. We catch a lot of bad guys, but if used improperly, you can put an innocent person in jail.

"Sometimes they intentionally or accidentally give suspects information of a crime during interrogations to fit the puzzle," he said. "If the detectives did this, the prosecutor is supposed to be there for checks and balances.

"What raised our concern at the time when you looked at the confessions was that there was no physical evidence. None of the boys put themselves doing the crime. They indicated that they didn't understand that what they admitted to was a crime. ... They did not understand 'acting in concert' is a crime. They all pointed to the next guy.

"There were also contradictions such as that one had intercourse, yet there was no physical evidence. Another indicated he removed her bra when it wasn't removed. When you hear all those contradictions, any good investigator will realize something is wrong with this case."

I won't dignify the swipe at Rev. Al with a reply, nor comment on the "violation of an unwritten journalistic practice" supposedly committed by the AmNews. Patricia Meili renders the latter point moot — IMHO — as she is publishing a book about her ordeal and there are rumors that copies of the uncorrected proof will ship to reviewers and media very soon.

The "Bullshit Quote of the Month" goes to:

This investigation will be fair, impartial and complete. We all have a right to expect justice and I intend to see that justice prevails.
Robert "Comatose Bob" Morgenthau, Manhattan District Attorney

What appears to have happened in this case thirteen years ago was anything but justice prevailing in a fair, impartial and complete manner. Not for the Central Park 5, the jogger, or even Matias Reyes and (especially) his subsequent victims.

(You can read all about the rift in the DA's office in the last three paragraphs. Don't want to touch it as I've already been accused of making shit up.)

Finally, several people have posted to this pretty intriguing and engrossing Village Voice article:

Rage Before Race by Rivka Gewirtz Little

Thirteen years after the teens were convicted, DNA evidence and a confession to the crime by Matias Reyes, a convicted rapist behind bars, indicate a strong possibility that the five accused—who walked into prison as boys and emerged years later as men—would have been a worthy cause for any left activist group to champion. In the jogger case, no one even considered their five mothers a cause for feminists, though with little money or proper representation, they saw their sons railroaded, and the media portrayed them as out-of-control ghetto mamas.

Nothing further to add to the article that hasn’t already been commented on (nicely) by others.

Posted by ronn at October 23, 2002 01:06 AM