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Central Park Jogger Rape Trials: 1990

Confessions Prove Crucial, Defense Unwittingly Helps Prosecution, Surprise Witness Surfaces, Second Jury Issues Surprise

Defendants: First trial: Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana Jr.; second trial: Kevin Richardson and Kharey Wise
Crimes Charged: First trial: Second-degree attempted murder, rape, sodomy, first and second-degree assault, robbery, riot; second trial: all of the above, plus sexual abuse
Chief Defense Lawyers: First trial: Robert Burns, Michael Joseph, Peter Rivera; second trial: Howard Diller and Colin Moore
Chief Prosecutors: Arthur Clements and Elizabeth Lederer
Judge: Thomas B. Galligan
Place: New York, New York
Dates of Trials: June 13-August 18, 1990; October 22-December 11, 1990
Verdicts: First trial: all acquitted of attempted murder, sodomy, and one of five counts of assault, but guilty of all other charges; second trial: Richardson guilty of all charges, Wise guilty of sexual abuse, assault, and riot
Sentences: First trial: 5-15 years imprisonment; second trial: 5-10 years imprisonment for Richardson, 5-15 years imprisonment for Wise

SIGNIFICANCE: The violent assault and rape of the woman known as "the Central Park Jogger" resulted in two tense and widely publicized trials that many New Yorkers felt were emblematic of the crime and racial problems characterizing the era.

More than 3,000 rapes were reported in New York City in 1989, but none aroused more fear and anger than an attack on a young woman who became known simply as "the Central Park jogger." The facts sometimes disappeared in chaotic arguments outside the courts—and in the spectators' seats—over the racial politics of dispensing justice in America. Yet most of the trial itself was fought over one point that horrified New Yorkers on both sides of the case: the fact that nearly all of the suspects were legally children.

On the spring evening of April 19, 1989, a loosely knit gang of about 30 adolescents roamed the northern acres of Central Park, terrorizing everyone they encountered. Police grabbed several suspects, including one who blurted, "I know who did the murder!" The confession made little sense until several hours later, when two passers-by heard moans coming from the darkness. A naked woman was discovered lying in the woods. She had been bound, raped, and beaten so severely that doctors expected her to die.

The victim was a white 28-year-old investment banker who enjoyed jogging in the park at the end of long days at a Wall Street firm. The suspects were all black or Hispanic. All but one were 14 or 15 years of age. None had an arrest record, but outrage and sadness ran through the city with reports of the young suspects' apparent indifference to human life. It was just a "wilding," one explained, a night of terror for the sake of fun.

Several suspects were released for lack of evidence or pleaded guilty to earlier assaults in the park. The rape victim remained unidentified by most of the press, who simply called her "the Central Park jogger." Despite their youth, six suspects indicted for the attack were publicly identified in the press. The indicted minors were to be tried as adults, but sentenced as juveniles if found guilty.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994