Yusef Salaam escorted by police in 1989 (Photo: AP Photo/Sundance Selects)
In an interview with HuffPost Live yesterday, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns told host Josh Zepps that Bill de Blasio, the new mayor-elect of New York City, "has agreed to settle" the lawsuits of the Central Park Five, five African-American and Latino teenagers who were convicted in connection with the brutal 1989 rape of Trisha Ellen Meili, an investment banker jogging through Central Park. Those convictions were vacated in 2002.
"Though it is justice delayed way too long, and that is justice denied... [they] will not only be exonerated ... but they will have justice, they will see some closure, they will be able to be made whole," said Burns, who released a documentary last year on the case called The Central Park Five.
Reached for comment, a representative of de Blasio told Strombo.com that Burns was likely basing the remarks on a statement that de Blasio had made during the mayoral race. “It’s long past time to heal these wounds," de Blasio said in January. "As a city, we have a moral obligation to right this injustice. It is in our collective interest — the wrongly accused, their families and the taxpayer — to settle this case and not let another year slip by without action.”
At the time of the attack, then-Mayor Ed Koch called it "the crime of the century," and in the investigations that followed, four of five teenage boys confessed to the rape and to other attacks that took place that same night. All five — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Kharey Wise — were convicted in 1990 on a variety of charges including rape, assault, robbery and sexual assault.
But in 2002, a convicted rapist and murderer named Matias Reyes came forward and claimed sole responsibility for the crime, which took place when he was 17. Because of his account of the crime, along with DNA evidence and allegations that the original confessions had been coerced, a New York Supreme Court judge vacated the convictions of all five defendants — four of whom were out of jail by that time.
In the years that followed, all five of the accused men filed suit against New York City, each seeking $50 million in damages, but until now, the city has been unwilling to admit fault. In 2011, a representative of the city said in a statement, “The charges against the plaintiffs and other youths were based on abundant probable cause, including confessions that withstood intense scrutiny, in full and fair pretrial hearings and at two lengthy public trials. Nothing unearthed since the trials, including Matias Reyes’s connection to the attack on the jogger, changes that fact."
When he was in the red chair last year, Ken Burns talked about the allegedly coerced confessions:
Via Huffington Post