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On this date in 2002, A New York judge dismissed the convictions in the “Central Park Jogger” rape case.
On this date, the courtroom, filled with the family and friends of the defendants, burst into cheers and applause as State Justice Charles Tejada announced his decision. His ruling surprised attorneys and came two weeks after District Attorney Robert Morgenthau recommended dropping all the convictions in the case. All four young Black men and one Latino man had served years in prison for the 1989 rape and beating of a white-American woman jogger in Central Park, a crime that re-exposed the city's racial tensions and made national headlines.
The prosecutor cited new DNA evidence that implicated a convicted rapist who confessed to the Central Park assault. However, lawyers from the police detectives' union unsuccessfully blocked the decision. The primary evidence in the case had been the then-children’s confessions to detectives. Supporters of the five have said those statements were coerced. The defendants were 14 to 16 when they were arrested for the April 19, 1989, attack—no forensic evidence linked any of them to the crime scene. In addition, there was a DNA match with serial rapist Matias Reyes, who confessed to the jogger attack. The five, now ages 28 to 30, completed prison sentences ranging from 5 to 13 years on their convictions. Their lawyers were considering lawsuits.
The 28-year-old jogger was found near death at the park's north end. She was in a coma for 12 days but recovered. She now lives in a Connecticut suburb, works for a nonprofit organization, and has published a book.
Besides rape and assault convictions in connection with the incident, the five also were convicted on charges including assault, robbery, and sex abuse, plus rioting stemming from allegations they attacked and harassed other people in the park that night. Four of the five youngsters confessed on videotape. A detective testified at trial that the fifth made incriminating admissions to him but never on videotape.
Here is a register of convictions and time served by the five defendants in the Central Park jogger case:
Antron McCray: Arrested at age 14, convicted as a juvenile of first-degree rape and robbery, released in 1996 after serving six years, he is now 28.
Kevin Richardson, arrested at age 14, convicted as a juvenile of second-degree attempted murder, first-degree sodomy, first-degree rape, and first-degree robbery, was released in 1997 after serving 6 1/2 years, now 28. Yusef Salaam was arrested at age 14, convicted as a juvenile of first-degree rape and robbery, and released in 1997 after serving 6 1/2 years, now 28.
Raymond Santana, arrested at age 14, convicted as a juvenile of first-degree rape and robbery, released in 1998 after serving nearly eight years, incarcerated again in 1999 on third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, was scheduled to be released in 2003; he is now 28.
The ruling could clear the way for the release of Santana, who is currently imprisoned on an unrelated drug charge. Based on his conviction in the jogger case, he was sentenced as a prior felon.
Kharey Wise, arrested at age 16, convicted as an adult of first-degree sexual abuse, first-degree assault, and first-degree riot, was released on Aug. 12, 2002, after serving 11 1/2 years; at that time, he was 30.