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Voices From the Archive
When the Central Park Jogger case was national news, we were there
YCteen staff
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Four of the “Central Park Five” were initially sent to the Spofford Juvenile Detention Center, where they participated in a writing workshop run by Youth Communication (the publisher of YCteen). Raymond Santana published this poem in our prison newsletter, Spofford Voices, protesting his incarceration and proclaiming his innocence:


Time


I’m wasting time for a serious crime

A crime I didn’t do

A crime that traps black people like me and you

Teens having dreams but not going to the extreme

Peer pressure from friends that will lead you to a dead end

I’m not a follower. I was just with the wrong crowd

The type of crowd that could have left me on the ground

The white man tries to put us down

But we as blacks, could turn that around

I just want to go home and get my head out of this dome

I wish I could disappear and get out of this jail atmosphere

This is not a rhyme—it’s just time.

—Ray, Spofford Voices, September 1991


Also at that time, Youth Communication published Strange Brew, a newspaper at Urban Academy HS. Urban Academy student Tracy Rainford closely followed the media reports about the case from many sources. Still a teenager herself, Tracy asked critical questions about holes in the investigation that the mainstream media missed. She came to the conclusion that the evidence was too contradictory, and that the confessions could have been coerced. She turned out to be right, as this excerpt shows.

From “They Were Railroaded”

I don’t believe the suspects’ “confessions” were real. They were too vague and they were given when the police didn’t know all the facts about what happened, like whether or not the victim’s bra was torn off. It’s well known that the police have a way of intimidating people into making false confessions. I say if the police didn’t know a lot of the facts during the questioning, they must have interrogated, intimidated, maybe even fabricated the “confessions” from the suspects.

image by YC-Art Dept

Here’s an example I made up: The police might say, “Your friend told me you were the one who raped her and it was all your idea. If you confess, we could get you off easy.”

There was little or no physical evidence linking the suspects with the crime: None of the sperm found on the jogger matched the suspects, and there was no mud or blood on the suspects’ clothing, even though the jogger was found in a muddy area bleeding to death (in the time between the rape and the arrest of [some of] the suspects, there was no time for suspects to change their clothes).

I think these kids were suspects because they were black kids in a group. The police suspect you of things when you’re in a group. When I’m with my friends, the police seem to watch us more than if it was just me and another person. Especially when my friends are all black.

I believe the reason why the boys showed “no remorse” (as the white media claimed) is because they didn’t do anything. This is most definitely a “media lynching” case. It shows that we have a long way to go before we can achieve true justice in this society.

—Tracy Rainford
Strange Brew, January 1991

This story is part of the media/news literacy series, which is generously supported by the McCormick Foundation.

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