Guilty Until Proven Innocent

For Months, D.A.'s Office Looks for Link Between Central Park Defendants and Confessed Rapist

Prosecutors leaked that the fight may have been connected to the jogger case. "Initially, they were trying to say that it was all a conspiracy on Matias's part in support of Kharey Wise," said Perkins. "Matias will tell you that the fight that they had at Rikers Island was when they first met and the fight had to do with control of the television." Reyes has said, according to Rawlins's report, that he has encountered Wise twice, once during the altercation and for about five minutes at another facility. Reyes says that no discussion of the case occurred at either time.

Still, authorities are standing by the confessions obtained from the teens as evidence of their guilt. "That seems like the craziest thing, that one would confess to a crime that they did not commit," said activist Conrad Muhammad, then National Youth Minister of the Nation of Islam and an adviser to Yusef Salaam. "But when you don't have an understanding of the law and you're 13 and 14 and 15 years old, there's a real possibly that you can be duped into making a confession." Court papers point out that seasoned second-grade detectives interrogated the teens without their parents present. Perkins asserts that parents were there for the taping of the confessions after they had, in some cases, already been drafted by police.

According to reports, investigators are now exploring four scenarios: that Reyes acted alone as he says he did; that he was with a group that attacked the jogger; that he attacked her before or after she was attacked by a group. None of these scenarios, except Reyes acting alone, are consistent with the evidence to date. To push forward any other theory would contradict accounts of the attack as depicted in the confessions that form the basis of the initial convictions, and thus would enhance the position that the confessions were forced. As of press time, the Voice was unable to reach the D.A.'s office; however, it has been widely reported that the office is "thoroughly reviewing the case."

All of the defendants have served their time for the jogger convictions and are now united in their efforts to overturn their convictions. "Right now, they're primarily working on clearing their names," said Perkins, remarking that a lawsuit is obviously a consideration. "There's a larger concern that they have to correct the criminal justice process that seems to so readily capture, try, and convict young black men without significant evidence, but rather with coercion, media distortion, and latent racism."

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