Retired prosecutor Robert Morgenthau recently died just 10 days short of what would have been his 100th birthday, but his mark on New York City is likely to last well into the future. One of the longest-serving public prosecutors in U.S. history, he built a reputation for taking on mobsters, politicians and people accused of white-collar crimes.
But part of Morgenthau’s legacy is the prosecution, conviction and eventual exoneration of the Central Park 5. In 1989, a woman jogging in Central Park was severely beaten and raped. After she was found in a ravine, she spent the next 12 days in a coma. Five Harlem teens were charged with assault, robbery, riot, rape, sexual abuse, and attempted murder in the case.
Their prosecution was overseen by Morgenthau’s office, and based largely on the confessions they made after police interrogations. And after their convictions on various combinations of the charges, the teenagers began serving prison sentences.
In 2001, a man who had been convicted of murder and rape told officials that he had beaten and sexually assaulted the jogger. His DNA matched the evidence that had been collected at the scene.
Morgenthau’s office then told a state court that it recommended vacating all of the convictions of the Central Park 5. The court did as it was asked, and the state withdrew all criminal charges against the men.
The case proved for many that even confessions are not always reliable. Far too often, police eager to arrest and prosecutors eager for convictions use intimidation to coerce confessions out of innocent people.
If you face violent crimes charges including homicide, sex crimes, assault or weapons charges, contact a New York criminal defense attorney experienced in protecting rights and freedom.