The Central Park 5
Central Park Five Prt 2
The Dark Side
Dr. Yusef Salaam
Sixth “forgotten” member of Central Park Five acquitted after 33 years for raping jogger
- In the United States, the Supreme Court has acquitted Steven Lopez, who was convicted with the notorious ‘Central Park Five’ for the rape of jogger Trisha Mill, after 33 years. The 23-year-old jogger was raped and murdered in Manhattan’s Central Park in 1989. Steven Lopez was arrested and convicted along with five other suspects, all black or Latino youths later known as the ‘Central Park Five’. Lopez was unjustly imprisoned for more than three years.
- What exactly happened in 1989?
The ‘Central Park jogger case’ was a court case in the United States in 1989 about the assault and rape of 23-year-old jogger Trisha Meili. It happened in Central Park in Manhattan. On the same evening, some unrelated disturbances took place elsewhere in the park. Five black and Latino youths who were involved in the riots were also convicted of the assault and rape of the woman. They were imprisoned for 6 to 15 years. They came to be known as the ‘Central Park Five’.
In 2002, DNA testing revealed that it was not the boys who raped and assaulted the woman, but a convicted serial rapist and murderer. The boys’ conviction turned out to be the result of a biased and racist legal system, in which the youths were forced to make a false confession. The verdict was eventually overturned. The victims received compensation of EUR 41 million. The case caused a wave of disappointment across the country and inspired books, films and the popular Netflix series ‘When They See Us’.
The conviction of Steven Lopez, who like the Central Park Five was suspected of attacking and raping the 23-year-old jogger, was overturned on Monday. Lopez was 15 when he was arrested for the brutal attack on Trisha Meili. Although people always talk about the ‘Central Park Five’, 6 youths were convicted that night. However, Lopez was always forgotten by the general public.
The police authorities threatened to charge him with the rape and robbery of Trisha Mill. In exchange for a reduced sentence, he was forced to accept a deal in which he pleaded guilty to “only” robbing the woman.
- Forced false statement
Steven Lopez, 15, spent 20 hours in a cell before he could be questioned. His parents were allowed to attend the interrogation, but hardly spoke English. After more than two hours, the father and Steven Lopez were presented with a statement that they signed without being aware of it. The statement said that Lopez was present at the place where the jogger was attacked.
Lopez spent over three years in prison. He was released, but his name was, until yesterday, never cleared. “Steven Lopez was convicted and pleaded guilty after false testimony, unreliable forensic information and tremendous external pressure,” New York County Prosecutor David Bragg stated during the hearing last Monday. According to Bragg, there was no evidence linking Lopez to any of the charges.
- 33 years later…
The acquittal comes 33 years after Lopez was arrested for the acts and 20 years after the other members of the ‘Central Park Five’ were found innocent. Steven Lopez, now 48, has never addressed the allegations of his involvement in the rape of the young woman.
D.A. Bragg Moves to Vacate Steven Lopez’s Conviction in Central Park Jogger Case
2 aug. 2022
Steven Lopez, sixth member of Central Park Five, is exonerated | New York Post
26 jul. 2022
Co-defendant in Central Park jogger case exonerated
(25 Jul 2022)
New York 25 July 2022
1. Close-up of Steven Lopez
2. SOUNDBITE (English) Eric Shapiro Renfroe, Steven Lopez’s attorney:
“But I mostly want to talk to Steve. I believe what happened to you was a profound injustice and an American tragedy. I wasn’t alive when you were arrested, but it is truly painful to see how the system failed you, to see how this city and this nation vilified you when you were just a kid. And worse, you were innocent.”
3. Close of Lopez
4. SOUNDBITE (English) Judge Ellen Biben, New York County Supreme Court AND Seven Lopez, wrongfully convicted: ++PARTIALLY OFF-CAMERA++
BIBEN: “It cannot be said that Mr. Lopez’s guilty plea was predicated on a voluntary and intelligent waiver of his constitutional protections as our Constitution, criminal procedure law, and justice require. As such, the court grants the party’s applicaiton for vacator of judgement and of conviction under CPL-440-10 sub 1. And in addition, the record further establishes that the people would not be able to sustain their burden at trial, and therefore the indictment against Mr. Lopez is now dismissed.”
LOPEZ: “Thank you.”
BIBEN: At this time, I’m signing the order vacating the judgement of conviction and dismissing indictment 4762 of 1989. With respect to Mr. Lopez, the matter will be sealed, except on the request of the parties. We wish you peace and healing.
LOPEZ: “Thank you.”
BIBEN: “It is so ordered.”
5. Pan to Lopez, Lopez hugs attorney
New York – 25 July 2022
6. SOUNDBITE (English) Alvin Bragg, (D) Manhattan District Attorney:
“Today is an important moment, not just for the DA’s office, but for Manhattan, New York City and the entire criminal justice system. So many largely forgot that there were six who were falsely accused of rape of the Central Park jogger. Today, Mr. Lopez joined the other five who had their convictions vacated. What is so striking to me is how young Mr. Lopez was when both he was arrested and then when he pled guilty under extraordinary pressure. He saw the outcome of two trials, not one, but two trials of the five other teenagers charged before him. He was questioned in the middle of the night. He was implicated by unreliable forensic evidence and by statements. And as many of you will recall, he was up against incredible public scrutiny.”
7. Wide of news conference
8. SOUNDBITE (English) Alvin Bragg, (D) Manhattan District Attorney:
“It is matters like this that hamper that trust and thereby, by extension, our public safety. And it is my hope that today, which is first and foremost as Mr. Lopez Lopez’s day, but also by extension the impact on the perception of our system and by extension, the impact on public safety.”
9. Wide of news conference
10. SOUNDBITE (English) Eric Shapiro Renfroe, Steven Lopez’s attorney:
“What I would say is that, you know, and I don’t know how much he’s comfortable with me saying, but I would say that I couldn’t imagine having gone through this. And I think that he’s, you know, tremendously strong for having endured it. So I’m sure that he’s feeling a range of emotions. But I’m hoping today, at the very least, vindicated, because I think that there were a lot of awful things that were said about him that I know were not true at the time that were said and that were not true today.”
ARCHIVE: New York – 22 April 1989
ARCHIVE: New York – 21 April 1989
12. STILL of a police car sitting in an area of Central Park were a woman, who came to be known as the Central Park jogger, was raped, beaten and left for dead two nights earlier.
The Central Park Five
Central Park Five Prt 2
The Dark Side
Dr. Yusef Salaam