[PEN-L:30665] Re: Cental Park jogger case

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Sep 28 10:30:38 MDT 2002

>The larger crime may be the pattern of forced confessions.
>What kind of crimes did the convicted men confesss to?
>Michael Perelman
Even back in 1990, some reporters were characterizing the confessions as
forced, even though this allegation of the reliability of the physical
evidence is obviously overstated.

Newsday (New York, NY), December 12, 1990, Wednesday, CITY EDITION

Untrue Confessions?
Experts: Jury felt police coerced Wise

By Emily Sachar. STAFF WRITER

Forensic evidence bolstered the case against Central Park rape defendant
Kevin Richardson, but the prosecution failed to win guilty verdicts on
the top counts against Kharey Wise because the jury didn't accept the
statements he gave police, legal experts said yesterday.

The prosecution's principal evidence against both defendants was their
own statements to police. In Wise's case, judging from their questions
to the judge, jurors apparently were troubled that four  different
statements   -   two written, two video   -   were taken from the
defendant in a 24-hour period. Wise first told of watching the rape from
behind a tree; then, saying he was wracked with guilt, made another tape
admitting holding the legs of the female jogger while others raped her.
"Ironically, Wise's first statement probably saved him," said attorney
Barry Slotnick, who successfully defended subway gunman Bernhard Goetz.
"The jury probably questioned why such a disparity existed between the
tapes and they could only offer coersion as the explanation."

But Ronald Russo, a former federal prosecutor and professor of law at
Brooklyn Law School, said: "Sounds like a typical compromise verdict.
Some people believe he was nowhere near the park and others believe he
was in the thick of it. They compromised."

State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Galligan instructed the jurors that,
even if they believed the statements were true, they must discard them
if they did not believe they were given voluntarily. "When you're taking
four statements in such a short time, you have to begin to wonder what
kind of coercion is being used," said Jessie Berman, who represents the
sixth Central Park defendant, Steven Lopez, who is to be tried early
next year.

The jury found Wise guilty of assaulting the female jogger and of the
lesser charges of sexual abuse and riot, indicating they believed Wise
was at the scene and participated in the attack.

Richardson was found guilty of all the top counts against him, including
attempted murder of the female jogger and assault and robbery of two
male joggers.

Evidence against Richardson included his own videotaped admissions and
two head hairs and one pubic hair found on his clothes that were similar
to those of the female jogger, a scientist testified.

"Clearly the jury did not believe that those statements were coerced. In
fact, they didn't buy any of the Richardson defense at all," Slotnick
said. "And the forensic evidence was qualitatively different, and better
for the prosecution, than at the first trial."

In Richardson's case, the jury apparently also accepted the legal
principle of acting in concert, which states that a defendant need not
have committed an act directly to be convicted for it.

Richardson was convicted of rape, even though there was no testimony and
no evidence that he had sexual intercourse with the female jogger.
Prosecutors asked jurors to convict Richardson of rape because he
admitted to being part of a group of youths, some of whom, prosecutors
alleged, did rape the jogger.

In his written statement, Richardson admits helping friends grab the
female jogger from the 102nd Street transverse. But, in a videotaped
confession, he says that he tried to come to her rescue while others
raped her. He says he yelled, "Y'all shouldn't . . . Don't do that to
her, all right? Don't do it."

The strongest evidence against Richardson came from a police detective,
who said the youth told him he got into a fight with the female jogger.
No evidence was introduced that Richardson had raped the jogger or
struck her with a weapon.

In Wise's case, experts said, the jury must have believed defense
attorney Colin Moore's argument that the youth was coerced by police
into confessing. And some jurors may have been troubled by segments of
Wise's first videotaped confession, in which lead prosecutor Elizabeth
Lederer grows indignant at some of his statements.

At one point, when Wise refers to the assault on the female jogger as an
"accident," Lederer impatiently scolds, "When you say the accident, what
are you talking about? An accident is when somebody slips and falls down
. . ."

Although Wise in his second video statement describes in great detail
how he aided the rape of the jogger by holding her legs down, later
saying, "This is my first rape and . . . this will be my last," jurors
may have not been convinced that his second confession was voluntary.
Wise talks of police "hitting on him" after he made the first statement.
And Moore argued that the youth had not slept or eaten for hours.

The prosecution also called a longtime family friend to the stand who
testified that Wise admitted to her in a phone call from jail that he
fondled the jogger's legs while others raped her. Legal experts said the
jury was not convinced. "You're not going to send a young man to jail
because of one phone call," Russo said.

Profiles and Statements of Jogger Defendants

Kharey Wise, 18, resident of Schomburg Plaza, a middle-income
development in Harlem . . . Special education student at Adlai Stevenson
High School in the Bronx . . . Suffers from a learning disability,
cannot read well, according to attorney Colin Moore . . . Mother,
Delores, is a therapist aide and born-again Christian . . . Youngest of
four brothers . . . Was 16 when arrested . . . Broke down in the
courtroom in reaction to prosecutor's opening statment also walked off
the witness stand during cross-examination.

Statements: In his first videotaped statement, Wise denied having
participated in the attack on the female jogger and said instead that he
watched the attack while hiding behind a tree. In his second videotaped
statement, Wise changed his story and admitted to holding the woman's
legs down and fondling them while others raped her.

Also in the second videotape, Wise talked about a debate among the
youths on whether to kill the jogger. During cross-examination, Wise
said he was coerced by police into saying on videotape, "This is my
first rape."

Kevin Richardson, 16, also a resident of Schomburg Plaza, attended
Jackie Robinson Junior High School . . . Parents, Gracie Cuffee and Paul
Richardson, separated in 1985 . . . Father a postal worker . . . Four
older sisters . . . Described by mother as withdrawn and shy but helpful
since her stroke seven years ago . . . Was released on $ 25,000 cash
bail put up by South Bronx priest Rev. Louis Gigante . . . Was 14 at
time of April, 1989, arrest and will be sentenced as a juvenile . . .
Family tried but failed to to replace attorney Howard Diller with
activist-lawyer C. Vernon Mason.

Statements: In a written confession, Richardson admitted being in the
park on April 19, 1989, and getting into a fight with a female jogger.

He also detailed other attacks on male joggers and a pair of tandem
cyclists. He received a scratch on his face, he wrote, during the fight
with the female jogger.

But in his videotaped statement, Richardson said he received the scratch
on his face when he rushed to the defense of the female jogger as others
were raping her. "Everybody was around her and I came . . . And I was
like, trying to stop them. And I, and I got, in the way. She kind of
like scratched me a little bit. It was in the face."


Louis Proyect

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