Central Park Rape Case Convictions in Question.
September 6, 2002 6:09 PM   Subscribe

Central Park Rape Case Convictions in Question. Does the blogging community care? With daypop having technical difficulties, its hard to tell. Although, one voice expressed his opinion back in June before these current revelations. (question pondered at uppity negro)
posted by negroplease (20 comments total)
OT: Daypop will be out of commission for at least a week.
posted by dhartung at 6:14 PM on September 6, 2002

Maybe I'm simply completely ignorant, but what's the connection with a rape in central park to people who write weblogs?

Likely there are as many or more rape convictions called into question within 3,000 miles of me that I'm likely to care about somewhat more than this one in particular. Apart from the rather baffling presentation here, the news that better evidence could set these boys free restores a tiny bit of my battered faith in the justice system.
posted by majick at 7:06 PM on September 6, 2002

I'm also confused about the backstory to this rape. Do most people think that the other boys are actually innocent or guilty? If someone could elaborate on what exactly the outrage is here (other than the always outrageous involvent of Al Sharpton) it'd be greatly appreciated.
posted by Stan Chin at 7:28 PM on September 6, 2002

Police misconduct, plain and simple. The police coerced imaginary statments from these kids and sent them to jail for a crime they didn't commit. Those detective should go to jail for that if they knew that the kids were really innocent.

see also Frontline: An Ordinary Crime for more information on the state of "justice" in America
posted by gen at 7:51 PM on September 6, 2002

The Wilding case drew national attention 13 years ago. There were many racial overtones at the time because the majority (if not all) of the suspects were either black or hispanic. Now the convictions of one case (out of many assaults) is being overturned due to a a recent confession and technological advances in DNA testing.

I's sorry if I'm not being appropriately sensative here but I get the sense of this post as being a bit of a troll.
posted by bitdamaged at 7:56 PM on September 6, 2002

I wasn't trolling at all.

The question arises out of what we choose to discuss and what we don't choose to discuss.

There are cases that are regularly referred to as proof of what kind of people certain public figures are...then there are cases like this one, where nobody seems to care about the eventual outcome. It doesn't raise a blip on the radar.

I did a search and could find tons of posts on blogs about the Tawana Brawley case (which also was a while ago). I did another search about this case and couldn't find anything about it. I usually daypop stuff to see where folks are standing on things or what they are talking about...but with it down, I figured I'd mefi to gather opinion.

How that is a troll, you'll have to explain...
posted by negroplease at 8:03 PM on September 6, 2002

Hmmm.... after further review, and to answer your question, no, I don't really care.

(He asked!)
posted by Stan Chin at 8:14 PM on September 6, 2002

My comment came from a couple of things.

First, is the relatively obtuse nature of the post, like other's mentioned above I'm not sure what is to be discussed. While the topic is no doubt news, at this point it's relatively cut and dry. The police fucked up the wrong kids went to jail (from the article it seems they only did about 5 years so I'd presume most of them are out already and have been for a while). 13 years ago there was much to discuss. But I personally was 14 and my grasp of current events was a bit weak.

Second while there is nothing necessarily inflamatory here, the links provided are where the trolling comments mainly arise. Mass generalizations such as this:

Oh well, I expect the right-wingers will treat this like anything else that doesn't agree with their skewed version of reality. By hiding until the nasty ideas go away.

looks to me like someone trying to pick a fight.
posted by bitdamaged at 8:24 PM on September 6, 2002

Well, I care about this.

Can we take doubts about the motives of the poster over to MetaTalk? Let me try to drag this back on topic:

The problem with this story is that it hasn't been resolved. The evidence we have that Reyes' DNA matches that found on the Central Park jogger is only the word of the lawyers of the convicted rapists. That evidence will be presented in court, and at that point we should have a resolution of the issue.

If it turns out that there is, in fact, no connection between the convicted rapists and their supposed victim, it will be highly disturbing, and an evident serious miscarriage of justice. This case may be almost forgotten now, but back in the day, as the Post article says, it was a cause célèbre, that fit right into NYC's worsening racial tensions, and an illustration of NYC's pre-Giuliani downward spiral into lawlessness.

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the DNA evidence does exonerate the five convicted teens: how the hell did this happen? Individuals being coerced into confessing to a crime is nothing new, but five at the same time? Where were their lawyers? These kids were not a bunch of faceless drifters being beaten with hoses in the Cowflop County jailhouse, they were in the full glare of the media spotlight, all over the papers, on the nightly news, with Al Sharpton visiting them in their cells. And no one figured out they were all lying in fingering each other?

If a case this public, with so much exposure, goes so wrong, it casts very serious doubt on the nature of police work in general, and how confessions are obtained. That's my read, anyway.

And there's a connection between this story and the discussion of this one. The connection is that they're both about epistemology: how do we know what we know, how do we determine 'truth'. goethean, in the other thread, complains about 'epistemic conservatives'. If this case did, indeed, go awry, it sounds like the NYPD could stand to be a lot more epistemologically conservative itself, and needs to rethink its means of obtaining confessions, and perhaps rethink the whole idea of whether a confession, or the fingering of another, even if uncoerced, has any validity, absent corroborating evidence.

My political views are libertarian/conservative, and I've always assumed that the criminal justice system usually (not always, but usually) gets the right guy. But the number of cases being reversed by DNA evidence lately really rocks the ground under my feet, makes me question the validity of the entire criminal justice system.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:29 PM on September 6, 2002

That's 'cause célèbre'.
(3 digit Unicode)
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:43 PM on September 6, 2002

I remember the case well and I do care about these recent developments. The NY Times also reports that shadows of doubt were already being cast as early as 1990 when "an expert testified in a Manhattan court that DNA analysis of semen found in the victim in the Central Park jogger case was not traceable to any of the youths charged with her gang rape and attempted murder. "That means there was another rapist who is still at large," the expert said later."

But one of the former jurors in the original case was interviewed recently and she said that "...the evidence that was presented to me proved that they were involved, I still believe in that; that they were involved and they were there."

I suppose that as we move forward, a lot will depend on whether any connections can be found between the man who confessed and the convicted youths, as well as the validity of the original evidence.

Surely this a case that is likely to get a lot more attention once it is resolved. I'll be watching closely.
posted by RGarraud at 9:53 PM on September 6, 2002

My experience of the criminal justice system, Slithy_Tove, is that if they get the even the most outside fit for a high profile and lurid assault like this, they'll go for it just to take the heat off their backs. It's about closing cases. And if they make a mistake, and especially an egregrious one, they will never ever cop to it and fight a reversal all the way to the end even in the face of DNA--it's about careers and covering asses. Catching the right person is riding several cars behind. Clyde Charles spent 18 years in prison in Lousiana until the Innocence Project and Frontline finally forced the state and feds to allow for a DNA test that got him released. And even then the state insisted he waive all rights to sue for false arrest before they would release him. But after forcing him to forego redress, they did let him go after 18 years and a DNA test they fought tooth and nail to prevent--that's your criminal justice system.

As for this case, I'm with RGarraud: there's a lot going on and I know one thing for sure--I wasn't there.
posted by y2karl at 10:01 PM on September 6, 2002

database of wrongful convicitions and insightful analysis of the errors leading to the convictions: dr. edmund higgins. the site's not been updated recently but there are so many cases being overturned these days on DNA.

the first page of dr. higgins' site contains contains some interesting observations about the criminal justice system's lack of checks and balances -- (paraphrased) 'when an airplane crashes, the FAA investigates. when a patient dies, the hospital investigates'. there is no system in place to analyze the mistakes and take steps they don't happen again.

only when there is public outrage, is there any scrutiny. only when innocence projects take on these cases, are they solved.

and the worst part is, while the innocent sit imprisoned by a rush to judgement, the guilty run free.
posted by kd at 11:19 PM on September 6, 2002

Let's remember that these men were convicted before DNA evidence was available. There might be more precise evidence to exonerate them now, but only their own lawyers seem to indicate its existence -- are we going to assume that evidence to prove their innocence before it has been examined by a neutral party?

That'd be stupid. I don't put it past our criminal justice system to convict people unjustly, but I really doubt that it happened in this case. The jurors said it best -- the prosecutors proved to their satisfaction that the defendants were involved.

As Slithy_Tove said, it would be pretty remarkable if they were really innocent given how many people they had in their corner. Al Sharpton couldn't hire a lawyer who could dig up some evidence to support their defense? They all confessed and implicated one another? I can understand people copping a plea to serve less time, but this would be bizarre if true.

So for the time being I'm assuming it isn't, and that they're the ones responsible for the crime that made our parents and teachers terrified for our safety when we were in high school.
posted by Epenthesis at 1:59 AM on September 7, 2002

I care very much about the outcome, but I am not rushing to judgement. What disturbed me about this (other than the fact that 5 innocent men may have had their lives ruined) is:

A statute of limitations prevents Reyes from being prosecuted.

A man rapes and nearly kills someone and there is a statute of limitations? This must vary from state to state.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:10 AM on September 7, 2002

Lest anyone think this is an isolated incident, may I direct you to Tulia, Texas, where from 10-50% (depending on the report you read) of the African-American adult population were arrested in a drug raid. Many of them, after witnessing the trials (several of which resulted in 99-year prison sentences) confessed to the crimes and plea-bargained to avoid spending the rest of their lives in jail.
posted by Drublood at 8:11 AM on September 7, 2002

Secret Life: it does vary from state to state. North Carolina, for example, does not have a statute of limitations for felonies.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:17 AM on September 7, 2002

whoops! That should read 5 men who may have been innocent and had their lives ruined.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:19 AM on September 7, 2002

Thank you, Slithy, that was my sense of things, but I was too lazy to look it up.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:34 AM on September 7, 2002

".They all confessed and implicated one another? I can understand people copping a plea to serve less time, but this would be bizarre if true."

not as bizarre as you'd like to think. interrogation techniques employed by cops convinced they have found the guilty parties have been responsible for many false confessions. 17% of the wrongful convictions in dr. edmund higgins' database mentioned above, resulted from confessions that were dragged out of innocent people.

realize the cops think they're doing the right thing at the time. they are convinced they have the guilty party and frustrated by times that they failed to make a case that resulted in a conviction. it is very possible to convince a vulnerable suspect, in this case, young minority men, that they have no chance in court and that their confession will be considered a circumstance in mitigation, and their (unavoidable) sentences will be lighter.
posted by kd at 10:25 AM on September 7, 2002

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