Most people do not realize that the title of the BET program 106 & Park is actually the address where BET once hosted their video program geared toward Black youth. It is a coincidental but significant location in New York City. It is just a couple of blocks away from the place where one of the most storied events pertaining to African-American and Latino youth happened. New York City's Central Park Jogger case worked its way into American history on April 19, 1989. The Central Park Jogger case was one of the most publicized stories of the 20th Century. Only the O.J. Simpson trial has occupied more of America’s time. The racial dynamics proved to be a powder keg. The national print tabloids ran headlines like “Wilding”, ”Wolf Pack”, ”Urban Terrorist” and talk radio was so hateful we can’t repeat their opinions. To most mainstream media it was simply a case of innocent white woman vs. violent inner city males. The judgment was made by most, before any evidence was ever presented. The media portrayals of the rape case kept New York City on lockdown and American jurisprudence divided. Experts say police used the “Witness story”1 technique to get the young teenagers to say what they needed them to say after interrogating them for as long as 36 hours, according to some estimates.
Details of the teen’s statements were always inconsistent with the facts of the crime or "signed confessions". The teens accused of committing the crime, Raymond Santana, Yusuf Salamm , Kevin Richardson, Anton McKray, and Kharey Wise, ranged in age from 14 to 16 at the time. All but Salaam signed a police confession, although each teen denied committing the rape themselves. According to attorney and DNA expert Barry Scheck “their have been 122 post-conviction DNA exonerations, and in 35 of those cases (28%) there have been these confessions or admissions and that's just the tip of the iceberg.” In addition Roger Root, founder of The Prison Crisis Project (Providence, Rhode Island) presents some statistics that are mind boggling. They have found that “DNA tests used before trial have exonerated at least 5000 prime suspects out of the first 18,000 DNA suspect samples at the FBI and other crime labs-suggesting a pre-trial error rate of more than 25 percent. Since 1977, some 553 people have been executed in the United States while another eighty death row inmates have been released after they were found innocent. For every seven executed, one innocent person is freed-an “error rate” of more than 12%”.
In the Central Park Jogger case none of the physical evidence matched the accused. For example, when police took two of the suspects, then 14-yr-old Kevin Richardson and 16-yr-old Kharey Wise, to the park and asked them separately where the attack occurred, they pointed in different directions. Part of the confessions claimed that the victim’s clothes were cut off her with a knife, but the clothes were not cut. Another of the suspects, Antron McCray then 15yrs-old, said the jogger wore blue shorts and a T-shirt, but she actually wore long black tights and a long-sleeve jersey. Despite these glaring inconsistencies, the media in New York City pushed the story throughout the country and basically depicted the young defendants as guilty. Most people do not realize that when they read the newspaper, specifically tabloid papers like the New York Post or NY Daily News that they are actually reading the prosecutions position and interpreting it as factual information. Therefore it is should come as no surprise that information often points to the defendants guilt before a trial ever happens, especially when those on trial are not rich or famous. The court of public opinion returns verdicts very fast in, New York City, the largest media market in America.
Despite the fact that the case is no longer in the news, it’s far from over. Early this year the legal system exonerated Raymond Santana and 4 of his co-defendants from any guilt in one of the most infamous crimes in New York City (the defendants had already served their full sentences), which briefly worked the case back into the forefront of the media. There are over 2 million people incarcerated and the standard error rate of America’s criminal justice system is believed to be circa 10% this translates to 200,000 innocent people (the overwhelming majority of them either black or brown) placed behind bars in the U.S.. Today we present an exclusive “Raymond Santana speaks” originally done May 1st 2003.
The Truth Shall Set You Free ....Sometimes.
Ooh Papi: Did you read the newspaper accounts when you were 1st arrested at 14 years old?
Raymond Santana: I read several of the articles throughout the 17 months I spent at Spofford (Juvenile Center) and the newspapers made us look like a bunch of kids who were monsters and that all we did was run around causing trouble. They (the newspapers) made our own people hate us.
Bruce Banter: Donald Trump took out ads in several New York Newspapers asking for the Death Penalty for you and all of your co-defendants despite the fact that there was no physical evidence connecting any of you to the crime; he has yet to apologize about this, even now months after the District Attorney's has totally exonerated you all. In fact from what I read he has totally ignored simple request to make a formal apology in light of the new ruling. I know that there have been some demonstrations outside of his offices - What is the exact situation?
Santana: Donald Trump at the time was a person who thought that he was doing the right thing by calling for the death penalty. I mean look how our case was all over the media and the way we were presented. The media created an emotional appeal so deep that new Yorkers were calling for us to be castrated. It was like "white innocent investment banker Vs black/Latino mob". If this was the era of slavery. I wouldn't' be able to ever even tell this story in retrospect, as far as Donald Trump, he still hasn't admitted to us that he was wrong. Rich people like him ...Bloomberg ... think that it makes them less of a person to say I am sorry but it makes a difference, sorry can go a log way even after an injustice has been carried out. I tell you this; if the situation were reversed a lot of white people would be calling for an apology.
Banter: Unfortunately, the death penalty was restored back to NYC, not long after Trump's antics. Many believe it received momentum due to the Central Park 5 case. In hindsight, the NY Times has said media coverage was racist but many NY papers are unapologetic about their role in creating the atmosphere just like Trump. Since Trump is friends with a few people I assume would be sympathetic to you and this situation, like P-Diddy & Russell Simmons. Do you think Sean P-Diddy Combs could get him to reconsider his attitude?
Santana: I guess its possible but people in the music industry are concerned with one thing and that's. "How to make that money". If P-Diddy or Russell Simmons could make a couple a couple of million dollars off of us. Then we would be the best of friends but that's not the situation. Not one musician in the industry has reached out to us. We went through the shit that these ni@@as is talking about. Some of these artists are talking about "what they mans and them went through". We lived this shit and we came back from hell, survived and can talk about it. So, Do I think that P-Diddy could get him to reconsider? For What I ask! P-Diddy?! P-Diddy doesn't get anything out of that. What a photo standing between us, like he's uniting us for one common cause. These artist talk about the struggle until they get some paper, then they dancing, drinking Crystal and shit until they get caught in a jam. Then they holla' at Johnnie Cochran or Al Sharpton, talking about they need some help.
Banter: That's probably true for P-Diddy and most artist but Simmons has been very active in the community on some political issues, regardless of whether one agrees with him or not. He is not apolitical like the others.
Santana: Ok I hear you, but to me he is not really trying to change much with his influence, the Rockefeller Drug laws are minor compared to the issue of sentencing as a whole. A lot of other people was dealing with that issue. He need to deal with sentencing as a whole. All they propose to do is take sentencing from severe to less severe but we need a total overhaul when it comes to sentencing. The change, they talking is maybe instead of doing 10 mandatory a guy does 7 mandatory years, it's still bad. They got a lot of new crazy sentencing laws that people don't even know about. New stuff coming out. Pataki getting millions to build prisons, he just got 53 million more for prison construction and they need to fill them. They getting a lot of free prison labor its slave labor, over some minor things but ok, let's see what happens with the Rockefeller drug laws. Lets just see where this goes.
Banter: Is there anything about the Central Park case that you think people should know that is rarely mentioned or talked about? For example I know that one cop who basically built his career on the case turned out to be a dirty cop, If I recall he was busted robbing graves, taking money or something and he was one of the lead investigators in the case?
Santana: I want to name people and go into it but Some stuff on the case I can't talk about just yet .... but Yeah these dirty cops be getting away with murder, this has been happening since I was born, Eleanor Bumpurs lived in my old projects (Sedgwick Houses). She lived in the building across from me. Enough is enough. Society needs to wake up. People don't step up UNTIL it hits home. Then they want to know why it happens to them. I tell you why because you're no different than the rest of us. It was your time. My case really showed how unified white people are and how distant we are because during my case white people supported the jogger while we were treated like shit. My own family ain't even want to fuck with me, behind this case. I got cousins I ain't ever get to see. You know family is supposed to be the strongest unit but instead I had cowards.
Banter: Despite the lack of physical evidence you all were convicted and if not for Mathias Reyes confessions and DNA match you would still be subject to Meghan's Law and unable to vote since you were convicted as a felon. Is there anything that you want to say to Mathias Reyes now?
Santana: Mathias Reyes is a person who didn't care about shit. He had a problem. I am lucky that that I never met him or bumped heads with that dude, before this case, during this case and after this case. I will always be a real brother, never snitched on my homies or none of that. They offered to bring me home early by having me testify and say a guy named Steve Lopez was also in the park that night and attacked the jogger. All I had to do was lie and say he attacked the jogger there but I knew he didn't and my attitude was like keep me 100 years but no thanks. I can't say Meghan's law is bad, because there are some sick people out there who need help. Reyes was one of them but I am glad he took responsibility for his actions, it took him long enough, but I am still grateful for it, because right now he's laughing in the face of the criminal justice system because even with him serving 33 ˝ years he had actually got away with this crime and almost all the same cops who worked his cases worked our case and he was right under their nose. To a madman like him that is funny.
Banter: Throughout the trial and during incarceration you all were quite noble, you maintained your innocence, passed up on opportunities to leave early if you would just say "yes you did it" even after you were already convicted. Another passed a lie detector test. Despite those facts in my opinion, even with the compelling & detailed confession by Reyes without the DNA technology there is a good chance that your name or your codefendants would not have been cleared. I recall here in Philly a "Mob hit-man" named Arnold Beverly admitted to killing Police officer Daniel Faulkner but Mumia Abu-Jamal is still in jail for his murder due to police pressure mainly (The Fraternal Order of Police) and he has always had broader support behind him. It was as if his confession never happened.
Santana: ok, Good example but it was not just his confession it was the fact that he (Reyes) was a serial rapist, murderer and his whole style and modus operandi was consistent with the jogger attack. We was basically choir boys, no police record, no history of violence or anything and then you have this vicious attack. I think those things were major factors. But I still thank god for DNA (laughs). I think if it was only a confession and he didn't have the history that he did they would have told him to fall back and shut up. Plus Governor Pataki had just endorsed DNA in a big time way talking about how its certainty would be able to catch a lot of criminals but actually it is freeing more people than ever.
Papi: A lots of Black and Hispanic youth get caught in the system some innocent and some guilty. Either way you look at it, many face the same problem. That is doing the time alone. Which makes many people bitter, who are some of the people who stuck by you throughout this case. Do you want to give some shout outs.
Santana: Well my pops for one because not many brothers could ever say they know their pops. So I am grateful for having him in my life. My sister for holding me down, my brother because he always kept it real (with me, never gave me no phony advice or looked at me sideways. Helene & Elombe Brath for always being in my corner and for always being like a second family for me. Then I send love to the brothers who was always in the correctional facilities with me from 1989-2002. Memories I will never forget and love that is never lost.
Banter: As in any high profile case when there is either a screw up or cover-up that damages lives, the next step is usually a civil trial. Is their any amount of money that could make up for the time you lost (Central Park Civil Suit is for 250 million total for all 5 defendants)?
Santana: There is no amount of money that can make up for the time that I lost. I mean I lost my whole childhood. I grew up in the system. I lost my moms to anger when I was in Goshen. On top of that I have almost a whole side of my family that don't even talk to me. I mean they just stopped talking to me because they believed the media frenzy, which said we were guilty.
Bruce: Clarify, what do you mean when you said "you lost your mom to anger"?
Santana: I mean anger was consuming me, my mom had cancer from smoking cigarettes and she was dying. I was a teenager rotting away in a jail cell. I can't see her, can't be there with her, I am just in there feeling helpless and upset over her dying and me not being able to be there cause they accusing me of brutalizing a jogger.
Banter: In another highly publicized NY murder case, a innocent man named George Whitmore signed a 61 page murder confession for the "Career girls murder case of 1964"2. I think he served about 9 years in prison before the real killer was caught. He never sued the city, he was just happy to be out. Why do you think it is that sometimes people don't sue for wrongful imprisonment?
Santana: I would love to ask him that but sometimes the situation is so stressful that you just want it to go away. A lot of people have even told me to just let it go. Also if you are accused of many different things you may be guilty of the most minor and decide to let that ride. I am not saying he is. Also you know sometimes when people get locked up, they can't really get back into society easy so they may plan to do something illegal like sell drugs and they don't want the cops always watching them. So you just say it's ok I won't sue and hope the cops wont pay you attention after that and you just try to get along. These are my guesses but I can't really say about others.
Banter: Many believe that you are going to be rich or you are famous because of the infamous case associated with you? Have you found a lot of new people in your sphere trying to get with you? You know, leaches, gold diggers, etc.
Santana: Well the truth is that when this case was going on, I met a lot of good people but on the whole there wasn't any chicken heads. A lot of women are afraid to holla at the kid, because of the case, plus I am the type of person, that if the woman wants to holla, all she has to do is step to me I love aggressive woman.
Banter: As of January 1st, 2003 hundreds of people have been exonerated of crimes that they did not commit due to new DNA testing method. You have started college, is it true that you are in interested in biology? Or Law?- what do you plan to study?
Santana: Well as for college, I am currently studying business but before I finish college I'll get in fundraising and maybe law.
Banter: Now that you have been cleared of all changes and any wrongdoing it seems the police dept and district attorney are fighting each other. Recently the police department came out with a self-serving report that cleared them of any wrongdoing but said they still believe you all are guilty. What's your response to that?
Santana: It's like this, the cops have stood by their story that we guilty for over 10 years, then out of the blue, DNA evidence comes out and shows they we were innocent. (Remember they never had any physical evidence linking any of us to the crime.) How do you think the cops felt? So its no surprise that they stand by their opinions, no matter what new evidence shows or what the District Attorneys office has ruled.
Papi: What is your relationship with other members of the Central Park 5 Case and are all of you in contact?
Santana: The older brothers and myself still keep in contact with each other. We are family. We share history. A bond so strong that it can't be broken.
Papi: Were you all tight before this?
Santana: No, I didn't even know Kevin, Yusuf or Kharey. That is part of the reason why the cops manipulated the situation and could play those games because we didn't know each other. So the cops start lying to you and say he said you was there and you did this or that and you in your mind saying that's bull! But in the back of your mind you think that its very possible for a stranger to blame you for something that you are innocent of, especially if they think it is helping them, so it was all very confusing especially for 14 year olds.
Papi: Any thoughts on Patricia Mealy a.k.a. The Central Park Jogger?
Santana: The central park jogger stays neutral when it comes to speaking about our innocence, now you have to understand that she has been friends with the D.A. and cops for more than 10 years, these people have been telling her for all this time over 10 years that we are guilty. Now 13 years later, they look like fools. So she's caught in the middle. Believe the system or believe her friends.
Banter: Have you read her book? If not do you plan to?
Santana: I have not read her book yet but I plan to check it out but I have not had a chance to pick it up yet. If I see it, I am going to buy it but I am working and going to school right now so I am a little busy.
[Raymond Santana does not have a website but if you would like to respond to him, you can email us or send mail to us and it will be forwarded to him.]
1- The "witness story," is a police technique in which police intensely interrogate a suspect for long periods and promise a suspect they will soon be allowed to go home. Police try to win a suspect's trust by telling them they do not think he actually committed the crime, just that he saw his friends do it. If he tells police what his friends did, he will be allowed to go home.
2 - Janice Wylie & Emily Hoffert 2 Newsweek employees and roommates were murdered by Richard Robles but George Whitmore was coerced and tricked into signing the confession. This story was the blueprint for the 70's TV show Kojack but they never used this story for an episode.