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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

NY Times Shut Out of Central Park Five Case

MANHATTAN (CN) - The New York Times cannot access confidential information in the civil rights case of five men cleared in the Central Park jogger rape case, a federal judge ruled.

The nearly quarter-century-old crime has drawn renewed media attention in the wake of a new documentary from filmmaker Ken Burns and an upcoming federal trial by the men seeking $20 million for the decade they languished behind bars.

Antron McRay, Raymond Santana Jr., Kharey Wise, Kevin Richardson and Yusef Salaam were between the ages of 14 and 16 when they became suspects in the horrific sexual assault in 1989.

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 obliterated much of her memory of the attack.

Kept away from their families and lawyers for days, the teenagers allegedly cracked under manipulative interrogation by more than a dozen detectives, officers and prosecutors at the District Attorney's Office.

A decade into their sentence, convicted rapist and murderer Matias Reyes admitted that he was the actual perpetrator, and the rechristened Central Park Five were freed.

The Central Park Five, as they came to be known, sued the city, the police, the District Attorney's Office, interrogators and prosecutors in 2003.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis lamented Thursday that the case has still not gone to trial.

"We're coming up on the 10th anniversary," he noted. "It's a complex and important case, and somebody should get their day in court."

Several spectators in the courtroom audience of about 100 nodded their heads or muttered words of agreement.

But instead of trial preparations, the court discussed more routine discovery matters that afternoon.

The hearing began with the judge's denial of a New York Times motion to intervene in the case so that it could access information that the parties want kept confidential.

Since the earliest of these confidentiality agreements was signed in August 2008, Judge Ellis dismissed the motion as untimely.

He agreed with the newspaper, however, that "significance and importance" of the case warrant public attention.

Lawyers for the quintet supported the Times' effort to expose the information, and they will have the opportunity to try to amend their confidentiality agreements at a later hearing.

The next conference has been set for Feb. 19.

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