MANHATTAN (CN) – Five men who were convicted then exonerated of the infamous rape of a Central Park jogger in 1989 can access drafts of a report that may show police pressured them into making false confessions.
The victim, who identified herself as Trisha Meili in her memoir “I Am the Central Park Jogger,” was found several hours after being brutally raped. Her left eye had been removed from the socket, she had lost more than 80 percent of her blood, and a fractured skull had obliterated much of her memory of the attack.
Police charged five black and Latino teenagers between the ages of 14 and 16 for the crime.
Kept away from their families and lawyers for days, the boys allegedly cracked under manipulative interrogation by more than a dozen detectives, officers and prosecutors at the District Attorney’s Office. They were convicted on the basis of their videotaped confessions, but they now deny those statements.
“Although none of the plaintiffs admitted attacking or raping Meili, each ultimately rendered an account of events in which he unwittingly made himself a possible accomplish to the crimes committed against her,” according to their civil rights complaint.
After they spent more than a decade in prison, their convictions were overturned when convicted rapist and murderer Matias Reyes took the blame for Meili’s attack.
In 2003, the Central Park Five, as they came to be known, sued the city, the police, the District Attorney’s Office, interrogators and prosecutors for malicious prosecution, wrongful conviction and other charges.
PBS documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, who is gearing up to premiere “The Central Park Five” at the Cannes Film Festival this month, has compared their prosecution with that of the Scottsboro Boys, whose frame-up for rape drew attention to racism in the early 20th century American South.
Facing an order to turn over all documents prepared by Rubin Marin-Jordan, the New York City Police Department’s deputy commissioner of legal matters, the city asked for reconsideration.
Though U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis agreed to limit some of the disclosures last week, the bulk of the city’s requests failed.
Martin-Jordan is not a party to the lawsuit.
The five will gain access to early drafts of a report by New York attorney Michael Armstrong and commissioned by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
The so-called Armstrong Report was a “transparent effort” to insulate New York City from civil claims and swing public opinion against the Central Park Five by implying that they might still be guilty, their attorney Jonathan Moore told Courthouse News .
“This was clearly an effort to make some public opinion points,” Moore said in a phone interview.
Discovery is expected to continue through at least the rest of the year.