On April 19, 1989, Trisha – highly educated Caucasian woman – went for her usual run through Central Park. During her run, she was assaulted physically and sexually. The beating was so bad that she almost died due to blood loss. In the end, she lived, but lost her left eye and suffers from disabilities to this day. She does not recall the incident and was not able to help identify the perpetrators.
After an investigation (the quality of which has been hotly debated over the years), five African-American juvenile males were arrested. One of those young men was only 14 years old at the time of the crime. Four of them confessed to the crime and these confessions were recorded on videotape. Not only did they implicate themselves, they also implicated the other four. The fifth would not confess on tape, but evidently made enough incriminating remarks during the interrogation that he was thought to be guilty by the police detectives. They became known as the Central Park Five.
Within weeks, all five recanted their confessions. They claimed they were coerced, beaten and intimidated into making a false confession. They also claimed that they were not given proper access to their parents, although a court later determined it was because two of them had lied about being older than they were. DNA evidence was available and it pointed to one suspect, but did not match any of the five. Through two trials, the confessions were the primary evidence used against all the young men. In both trials, all five were found guilty.
In 2002, the convictions were overturned. The DNA evidence was finally matched to the assailant- one who had never been considered a suspect, but was in jail for life, guilty of other physically violent crimes. This other man confessed and provided details of the crime that matched the evidence exactly.
In 2003, the Central Park five filed a lawsuit against the city of New York for malicious prosecution, emotional distress and racial discrimination. They sued for $50 million each. For the next ten years, the city would fight the lawsuit, claiming that they not only should not have vacated the convictions, but that they believe they made a very good case that the five were involved in the assault that night and that the confessions were valid.
In November, 2013, the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio vowed to bring an end of the years of litigation and indicated that the city would finally agree to a settlement. To date (Feb 2014) no settlement has been officially reached.