A trove of crime scene photos, documents and video confessions related to the infamous Central Park jogger attack in the 1980s, which led to five men being wrongly jailed, have now been publicly released.
The massive release of documents, some which have never been made public, include police investigative notes and photos of bloodied evidence that ultimately resulted in the Central Park Five being convicted.
The pages were released on Thursday by the New York City Law Department following a years-long fight by the lawyers of the five men who want to know why their clients were wrongly convicted of the crimes.
The five men – Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Kharey Wise – were tried and found guilty of the brutal rape and beating of a 28-year old investment banker in Central Park on April 19, 1989.
A trove of crime scene photos, documents and video confessions related to the New York Central Park jogger attack in the 1980s were released on Thursday, including this image of a bloodied shirt retrieved from where Trisha Meili was raped and beaten
A sock and inner sole were among the evidence found at the scene where the 28-year old investment banker was brutally attacked in Central Park on April 19, 1989
The black and Hispanic boys, aged 14 to 16 years old at the time, confessed to the chilling crime after hours of police interrogations.
The boys then recanted their confessions, which they maintained were forced by police during prolonged interrogation but their original statements were admitted at trial.
They were convicted in 1990 and spent between seven to 13 years in prison.
The victim, Trisha Meili, still remembers nothing of the attack after she was bound, gagged, raped and beaten nearly to death. When she was found, more than 75 percent of her blood had drained from her body and her skull had been smashed in.
Meili was in a coma for 12 days and suffered permanent brain damage.
The men were released and exonerated after a decade in prison when Matias Reyes, a serial rapist serving life in prison for a murder, confessed in 2002 that he carried out the crime alone.
A re-examination of the case found that DNA on the victim’s sock linked Reyes to the attack.
This image shows a drag mark of where the victim’s body was pulled across the ground
The victim, Trisha Meili, still remembers nothing of the attack after she was bound, gagged, raped and beaten nearly to death
When Meili was found in Central Park, more than 75 percent of her blood had drained from her body and her skull had been smashed in
At the time, the then-District Attorney Robert Morgenthau stopped short of declaring the Central Park Five innocent but withdrew all the charges and did not seek a retrial.
The men sued the city in 2003 and eventually reached a $41million settlement in 2014. The recent release of documents is part of that settlement.
Legal experts at the time said the settlement took such a long time in part because of the money and reputations at stake.
Police and prosecutors have long been dogged by accusations they deliberately engaged in misconduct to coerce the confessions and convict the teenagers.
In a 2002 report recommending the convictions be vacated, prosecutor Nancy Ryan concluded that the boys’ confessions contained ‘troubling discrepancies’ and that Reyes’ description of the attack matched the crime scene.
Then-NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly appointed a panel that same year to produce its own report, which concluded that the boys likely attacked Meili before Reyes did.
From left to right: Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise confessed to the chilling crime after hours of police interrogations. They later recanted but their original statements were admitted at trial
The victim, Trisha Meili (pictured above in 2005), still remembers nothing of the attack after she was bound, gagged, raped and beaten nearly to death
Former prosecutor Michael Armstrong, who co-authored the report, said Ryan erred in dismissing the boys’ confessions entirely.
‘It seems impossible to say that they weren’t there at all, because they knew too much,’ he said in an interview.
The men were exonerated after a decade in prison when Matias Reyes, a serial rapist pictured above, confessed in 2002 that he carried out the crime alone
While in prison, three of the men said they were innocent of attack on Meili but acknowledged they were in the park committing assaults that night.
The men’s lawyers have long argued that their clients did not commit crimes in Central Park that night.
Among the documents released on Thursday were transcripts of 911 calls from that night in the park. A police officer said: ‘We just got a call of a group of 30 to 40 male blacks in Central Park approximately at 100th Street… disorderly and harassing people.’
A 911 caller told authorities: ‘They are attacking joggers by the reservoir by 96th Street.’
Photos of a shirt soaked in blood and discarded shoes and socks found at the crime scene were also released.
Former prosecutor Linda Fairstein told the New York Daily News of the document release: ‘These documents and videos will certainly challenge the prevailing narrative that completely omitted more than 50 percent of the evidence in this case.
The men – Korey Wise, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, and Yusef Salaam – featured in a documentary titled ‘The Central Park Five’ after their released from prison
‘These young men were arrested as a result of a meticulous police investigation and there’s no doubt that they were, as charged, rioting and attacking people in the park.’
As part of the settlement, the city agreed to publicly release 100,000 pages of documents. More will be released in the coming days.
In an interview with the Daily News, the victim in the Central Park jogger attack said she was glad about the release of documents because she is still trying to piece together the ordeal.
‘For my own peace of mind, I wanted to find the truth of what happened and who was involved, and so that’s why I’m eager to see the release of these documents,’ Meili said.
‘It’s information and the details I’ve never had access to.’
Meili added that she hoped the documents would clear the investigators and prosecutors accused of coercing the Central Park Five.
‘When that lawsuit was settled, it gave some the impression that the detectives and the prosecutors had acted improperly and I’d like to see it be acknowledged that there wasn’t a violation of (the teens’) civil rights,’ she said.