UNEQUAL VERDICTS: The Central Park Jogger Trials by Timothy Sullivan

UNEQUAL VERDICTS: The Central Park Jogger Trials

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Sullivan (news editor of the Courtroom Television Network) analyzes the Central Park Jogger trials in grim and fast-paced fashion. The April 21, 1989, assault on the anonymous woman known only as the ""Central Park jogger"" was not simply a rape. In its grotesque, stomach-churning brutality, the beating and sexual abuse of this lone woman by a gang of youths horrified a city that thought itself accustomed to chronic violence. Sullivan tells the gruesomely fascinating story of how an apparently iron-clad case--buttressed by videotaped confessions and assisted by rulings of a fair but prosecution-minded judge--became a legal Rashomon: The physical evidence of rape did not link the assault with the defendants; the victim was unable to remember anything of the incident; witnesses could testify to only parts of the case; and defendants recanted much of their confessions and contradicted one another. Sullivan reveals ""how messy, complicated, and imperfect"" the process of searching for truth and justice can be, and how the results of a criminal trial can hinge on procedural minutiae, the political climate in which the trial is held, the skills of prosecutors and defense attorneys, the personalities of judge and jurors, and even the race and socioeconomic class of the victim and the accused. In the end, prosecutor Elizabeth Lederer, whom Sullivan represents as highly skilled and dedicated, was able to achieve convictions, but Sullivan demonstrates that the verdicts, and the sentences for the ten defendants who were convicted (which ranged from 5 to 15 years for rape and assault to one year for robbery), hinged on factors incidental to the actual guilt of the accused. Sullivan shows, disturbingly, that the result of a trial depends on ""a series of haunting 'what ifs.'"" An excellent report of an important trial, though saddening and rough on the stomach.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1992
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster