How the Loose Ends Are Allowed to Drop Rather than Be Tied
About a half-hour after blogging about the New York Times's "crusade" against Augusta, an endeavor that, yesterday, he showed involved the internal silencing of contrary voices, Instapundit Glenn Reynolds uses the Times's coverage as a springboard to discuss an aspect of the resurfaced 1989 Central Park jogger rape. I've got no ax to grind against the convicted "wilders," and I was too young (in the age range of the attackers, actually) back then to have really been interested in following the news closely enough to form a strong opinion, nor am I interested in taking on a fellow blogger with much more legal expertise than I can claim. However, I have to question Mr. Reynolds's quick move from the Times's story to apparent advocacy that the five prisoners involved receive a million dollars per year of imprisonment if they are let go.
From various news articles, it seems that the much-vaunted new evidence that the current DA, Robert Morgenthau, cites as reasons for his recommendation to vacate the convictions is threefold: 1) A confession by Matias Reyes, a life-sentenced fellow prisoner of one of the convicted men, 2) DNA evidence "linking" him to the crime, and 3) DNA tests disproving that hairs found on some of the convicted men were not from the victim.
For an opposing view from somebody who also has more legal knowledge than I do, take a look at a recent column on the topic by Ann Coulter (regardless of personal feelings toward Ms. Coulter, it seems clear to me that her points are, at least, worthy of consideration). One particularly strong point in her case is the comparison of the validity of the various confessions: those of the men convicted, and that of Reyes. Reyes has nothing to lose by confessing, and much to gain within his environment. In fact, The New York Daily News reports that law enforcement officials interviewed another inmate who "said Reyes had been threatened with violence if he didn't take sole responsibility for the jogger attack." This angle isn't even raised by the Times.
Furthermore, Coulter describes the many points at which the original confessions could have been thrown out of the case but weren't. In contrast, The Daily News quotes the prosecutor who led the original probe, Linda Fairstein, as suggesting that there has been no cross-examination of Reyes allowed, and Nancy Ryan, the new-investigation leader, is alleged to have blocked interviews with other inmates. According to Bert Arroyo, the case's lead detective, the DA's office has not contacted him or other "lead investigators" for their current investigation, which the Times calls a "sweeping reinvestigation."
As for the DNA evidence linking Reyes to the rape, according to the Daily News, yet another inmate has said that Reyes told him that he had come upon the scene after the convicted attackers had already beaten the jogger and raped her then. Why is his tale any less believable than Reyes's? All the new DNA evidence proves is that Reyes was there. If his story to the other inmate is true that he was "riding high on angel dust and crack" when he came upon the beaten woman it doesn't seem a stretch to suggest that his is the only biological evidence because he was too out of it to think to avoid leaving it.
Coulter also makes a good point regarding the hair-DNA evidence, which the Times says, "in particular made a compelling argument":
I have a hard time believing that this evidence was decisive for anybody on that jury, especially given other points cited by Coulter:
It may be that the five prisoners received false convictions. It may also be that they are guilty, but a blend of legal-office politics, prison politics, and media politics will combine to give them a get-out-of-jail-free card. But would giving multimillion-dollar "restitution" to five guys whom nobody, as far as I've been able to discern, seriously argues were not at all involved in the various attacks around the park that night be justice?
First, judging from the media coverage, it doesn't look as if Morgenthau risks derision by taking the position that he does in fact, quite the opposite. Second, the new push is based on "new" evidence, so it can't really be said that he was in error; there was no "sixth rapist" before, nor the technology to match hair DNA. Which ties to the third point: if anybody is taking heat for this, it is the police; the usage of collected evidence (including the confessions) is not being questioned, but its procurement is.
Again, I have no experience to claim knowledge about the internal and external political pressure on Mr. Morgenthau. His is an elected position, but he's been in office for 27 years and just began a term this year. The issue of politics may not even be relevant where he is concerned with this case. However, if he does have more information that makes his current position more explicable, then I can't think of any reason that he hasn't released it. There is a fair bit of the "proof" available, and he has had to know that people would take note of the move.
Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:16 PM EST
John @ 12/05/2002 07:11 PM EST
John @ 12/05/2002 07:13 PM EST
Justin Katz @ 12/05/2002 11:08 PM EST