The Ballad of Donovan Drayton

He spent five years in jail awaiting trial. Call it justice, Queens-style.

"What I don't understand is that it had to have crossed [Clark's] mind at some point that 'maybe this kid didn't do it,'" says Drayton. "'He's fighting like he didn't do it.'"

Drayton wept and embraced his father. The strain in Ronny Drayton's face finally dissipated.

Sentencing is scheduled for September 18, but given all that time in jail, it's unlikely Donovan will serve more.

Donovan and Ronny Drayton on the stoop outside their Queens home
By Caleb Ferguson
Donovan and Ronny Drayton on the stoop outside their Queens home
Dwight Bent was fatally shot outside this home in Jamaica, Queens.
By Caleb Ferguson
Dwight Bent was fatally shot outside this home in Jamaica, Queens.

His life has turned back to the future. He finally got his high school diploma, and is trying restart the music career that was interrupted on a dry, overcast day in 2007.

A couple of clarifications:

We wanted to note the full sequence of how Matias Reyes came to confess to the Central Park jogger attack. Reyes first spoke to a minister and a chaplain in prison. He then spoke to a correction officer, who notified the inspector general of the state prison system. The IG then interviewed Reyes and tape-recorded him. That tape was turned over to the Manhattan District Attorney's office, which then conducted its own investigation.

Attorney Michael Warren became involved a few months later when relatives of three of the five wrongly convicted men retained him. He and his wife, also a lawyer, spent two days with Reyes and obtained an affidavit which became key in exonerating the Central Park Five.

Warren also asked us to clarify one of his comments related to the relationship between the Queens District Attorney and judges in Queens County. "For the most part, the DA controls a lot of the judges, but there are some judges who are very fair," he said. "I didn't mean to imply that all of the judges in Queens are intimidated."

grayman@villagevoice.com

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6 comments
nate.mims
nate.mims

If it were in my family, I would certainly want the people who shot and killed my relative locked up.  But I wouldn't want everyone they are assosicated with to be in jail too. 

Then again, there are members of my family that I think would deserve to be killed, particularly those who decided to sell drugs out of a day care center.  I would have pushed to have them kicked out of my family which would have left them open for an attack like this.  We don't believe in drug transactions around children and have very stiff penalties for that in my family.

nate.mims
nate.mims

DJ Nitti -

I understand how it can be unquestionable that he should have gone to the police right away, however when you consider that the actual shooters in the case were members of a gang, which had other members who weren't there, he would in essence have been signing his death sentence.  It's easy to say he should have done this or that, however unless you are in a situation like that, it's hard to know what's best to do.  Plus, if he had gone to the police, and they didn't arrest White or Glover right away, those two know that by silencing him then they get to walk.  All things considered, it's a really tough spot to be in and I for one, would not have gone to the police right away either. 

DJ NITTI
DJ NITTI

I get what you're saying and that's probably why most people dont hang out with gangbangers in the first place. I mean it's a cute story and all, the innocent good boy just happened to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time with some bad boys and doesnt know what was happening, but we all know better than that. I grew up in the hood and I knew that if I hung out gangbangers the chances of getting into trouble were exponentially greater than if I hung out with the neighborhood basketball players. Bottom line is that he was part of a group that shot and killed a man. If the victim was your family member you'd probably want them all prosecuted. He got off lucky and I hope he can make the most of it and stays out if trouble in the future but he's extremely lucky cause as far as I'm concerned he's an accessory to murder.

roundelay78
roundelay78

@DJ NITTI  

Extremely lucky how?  Being dumb enough to hang out with some guys he barely knew shouldn't have gotten him locked up that long in the first place, especially when the real murderer lied about Drayton to save his own behind. He wasn't the killer, so he shouldn't have been locked up in the first place,because it wasn't his fault.  And he wasn't a gang member, so he was hardly "part" of their group, as you put it.  Plus he admitted to not even knowing all that mess was going to go down. Yeah, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but losing five years of his life in jail for a crime he didn't coit? Not a doggone thing "lucky" about that.

DJ NITTI
DJ NITTI

I'm usually pretty liberal on these issues but it's really hard to be sympathetic towards someone that was with a group of guys that killed someone and didn't immediately go to the police to report it. I get that he was scared for his safety but that's no excuse. If the purpose of the story is to highlight how long these cases take to go through the legal system, I agree that's wrong and should be addressed but if I were on that jury I'm not sure I would let him off with just a gun charge. At the end if the day someone is dead and not only did this guy admit to having a gun but also shooting it during the assault and didn't come forward until he was facing serious jail time. With that being said I do think the DAs abuse their power by giving what they know are guilty parties extremely lenient sentences in exchange for cooperation to find less culpable defendants guilty and that is not only wrong but dangerous, especially when they allow dangerous individuals to get out of jail to commit more crimes. Overall the five years Donovan did seem justified if not lenient for his involvement in a murder.

DJ NITTI
DJ NITTI

I'm usually pretty liberal on these issues but it's really hard to be sympathetic towards someone that was with a group of guys that killed someone and didn't immediately go to the police to report it. I get that he was scared for his safety but that's no excuse. If the purpose of the story is to highlight how long these cases take to go through the legal system, I agree that's wrong and should be addressed but if I were on that jury I'm not sure I would let him off with just a gun charge. At the end if the day someone is dead and not only did this guy admit to having a gun but also shooting it during the assault and didn't come forward until he was facing serious jail time. With that being said I do think the DAs abuse their power by giving what they know are guilty parties extremely lenient sentences in exchange for cooperation to find less culpable defendants guilty and that is not only wrong but dangerous, especially when they allow dangerous individuals to get out of jail to commit more crimes. Overall the five years Donovan did seem justified if not lenient for his involvement in a murder.

 
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