On a night in 1989, the lives of five men changed forever when a young woman was attacked while jogging in Central Park. The five men were tried and convicted for the assault and sentenced to prison. But over a decade later in 2002, another man confessed to the crime and the men were exonerated.
Many New Yorkers are aware of this case, as it has made headlines in this state and nationwide. It is a testament to how far technology and transparency in the justice system has come in just a short time. It also serves as a good reminder of what can happen when a person is wrongfully convicted of a misdemeanor or felony and how difficult it can be to clear that person’s name.
When the men were initially convicted, technological advances in DNA testing were nowhere near what they are today. In fact, it wasn’t until the man responsible for the crimes confessed that authorities were able to determine that DNA recovered from the scene did not match any of the five men convicted. But it did match the man who confessed.
Despite being exonerated, the men have spent another decade waiting for justice to be fully served. They are waiting to settle a lawsuit they filed in 2002 for $250 million and they are also looking for answers to questions of why and how they were charged in the first place. They are hoping to examine investigators involved both in their case and a similar case that was being worked at the same time.
Today there are more resources available that can help people defend themselves against wrongful charges. These include DNA tests, phone records and even recordings of confessions and police interrogations. In many cases, the information gathered from these sources can make the difference between going to jail and going home.
People who are charged with a crime have a lot to lose if convicted. This can include their family, careers, community ties and even their freedom. With so much on the line, people facing criminal charges can work with a competent defense attorney who can examine evidence, contact witnesses and request or scrutinize test results which can result in the dismissal of charges.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Central Park Five Seek Conversation With Woman Who Could Help Settle Long-Standing NYC Lawsuit,” Nov. 13, 2013