Monthly Archives: January 2013

Central Park Five: A Travesty of Justice

by Jill Dalton

I live in New York City just one block off Central Park and when this unthinkable crime occurred on April 19, 1989 I remember, like most New Yorkers, being shocked and horrified.  This brutal attack not only rocked the city it reverberated around the world.  Mayor Koch called it the crime of the century.


The victim, a 28-year old white female, investment banker had been so badly beaten, raped and left for dead she was not expected to live.  The suspects, five black and Latino teenagers, were in the park for a night of “wilding” and the jogger was just another victim in their wake or so the story went. 

It was amazing how quickly the perpetrators were apprehended, confessed to the crimes, tried and sent off to rot in prison.  The press dehumanized and vilified them as members of a “wolf pack.”  Notable personalities, including Donald Trump, immediately went to work publically defaming and demonizing these kids.  Mayor Koch chimed in “They got ’em.”  They were tried in the court of public opinion, condemned and convicted in a court of law and that was that. 

The young woman miraculously recovered although, luckily for her but sadly for the five accused youths, she remembered nothing about her attack or attacker(s).

Amazing how quickly all the loose ends were wrapped up in a neat little package and tied with a bow.  Now everyone could go back to business as usual.  The criminals had been apprehended, law and order restored, we breathed a collective sigh of relief, the city went back to normal and everyone forgot about the attackers as justice had been served or so we were led to believe.

I recently attended a screening of the film, “Central Park Five” by Ken Burns, his daughter Sarah Burns and her husband, David McMahon.  As I watched this powerful documentary unfold I became more and more outraged, as did the audience as evidenced by how many of us, myself included, responded verbally to what was transpiring on the screen.  The film uses actual footage of the events including the confessions.  As the facts unfurl you realize all the confessions were coerced and the entire case was built on lies. 

The cops, the detectives, the prosecutors all knew there was no physical evidence linking these kids to the crime so they manipulated these kids and the facts to fit their narrative.  They reassured them if they’d just confess they could go home.  Then coached them on what to say.  It seems the cops were under so much pressure to find the perpetrator(s) they needed/wanted someone/anyone to pay for this crime and it didn’t matter who. 

These kids didn’t stand a chance.  They didn’t even have attorney’s present when their confessions were coerced.  The parents look shell-shocked in the film and didn’t seem to know they had any rights let alone the right to an attorney.  Everyone just went along assisting the police who they believed were helping them until they realized they weren’t and by then it was too late.

 Then low and behold some 13 years later a serial rapist and convicted murderer, Matias Reyes, now serving a life sentence for raping 3 women and raping and murdering another woman suddenly confesses to the crime.  His DNA is tested and it’s a match for the DNA found on the Central Park Jogger.   Not only was there no physical evidence linking these kids to the attack but none of their confessions matched each other or the crime.

 In 2002 Judge Tejada reviews the confessions and DNA evidence from Reyes and immediately overturns the convictions of the Central Park Five and wipes their records clean.  Unfortunately, there was little if any fanfare regarding their innocence and even a ticker-tape parade up the Canyon of Heroes couldn’t give these five now grown men back their lives.  This travesty of justice destroyed their lives and their families.  And because Matias was not apprehended he was allowed to continue his slaughter of innocent women as well.

The Central Park Five and their families have subsequently filed a $250 million civil suit, accusing the city as well as the police officers and prosecutors who worked on the case, of violating their civil rights, which the New York City government is fighting.  According to a New York Police Department commissioned review, the police officers involved in the case claim they did noting wrong. 

No surprise there.  The police protect their own.  We all know many police departments have their own “code of conduct.”  This Blue Code of Silence is an unwritten rule among police officers in the U.S. not to report on a colleague’s errors, misconducts or crimes by claiming ignorance of any wrongdoing.

The city has also fired back by subpoenaing Burns’ company, Florentine Films, to turn over all their notes and outtakes not included in the documentary for review.  The city claims Burns and his colleagues are not journalists and therefore aren’t allowed to invoke legal privileges to protect their work. 

This case brings to mind the recent execution of Troy Anthony Davis.  Davis was tried, convicted and executed for the shooting of a white police officer, Mark MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia, although there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime.  Then in a evidentiary hearing ordered by the Supreme Court of the United States eight of the witnesses, whose original testimony identified Davis as the shooter, recanted their testimony and identified Sylvester “Redd” Coles as the trigger man.  Coles was not subpoenaed by the defense so his alleged confession to the killing was excluded as hearsay.  Troy Anthony Davis was executed on September 21, 2011 by lethal injection.

The systemic corruption and mass incarnation of black males is outlined in Michelle Alexander’s best selling book, “The New Jim Crow.”  The United States has 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s prisoners.  According to Alexander, the majority of young black men in large American cities are “warehoused in prisons” (their labor no longer needed in the globalized economy) or, after having criminal records and labeled as “felons,” are permanently trapped in a second-class status.”

The conventional point of view holds discrimination mostly ended in the 1960’s with the Civil Rights movement reforms.  After all we have a black president, Oprah Winfrey’s rich and we have many black professionals.

Michael Tonry writes in Thinking About Crime: Sense and Sensibility in American Penal Culture:

While historically crime and punishment intensities have often been poorly correlated, the scale and lack of balance of the present USA criminal justice activity and penal system have turned it, according to Alexander, into a system of social control unparalleled in world history.  Its targets can be defined largely by race.  The rate of incarnation in the U.S. has soared, while its crime rates have generally not been higher than those in other western countries, where the incarceration rates accordingly have remained stable.  The current rate of incarceration in the USA, six to ten times greater than in other industrialized nations, is therefore not related to the actual rates of crime or their increase, but can be traced to a great extent to the artificially invoked “War on Drugs” discriminatory policies.

The Central Park Five case is an excellent example of how broken our system of justice is, as it functions more as a system of injustice at this point.  There is systemic corruption throughout our entire judicial system.  These kids were thrown into prison for a crime they didn’t commit while not one banker who caused the global meltdown has been questioned let alone prosecuted.  Whistleblowers are being prosecuted for exposing war crimes.  Pfc. Bradley Manning is charged with a number of offenses, including communicating national defense information to an unauthorized source and aiding the enemy, a capital offense for exposing the Collateral Murder footage and the U.S. Diplomatic Cables.  Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, has been sentenced to 30 months in jail for exposing waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques and yet not one person has been prosecuted for torture or for starting an illegal war based on lies.  I guess they’re still looking for those WMD’s.  The message is very clear.  If you’re rich no matter what you do you walk except for Bernie Madoff whose real crime was stealing from rich people.  Let’s be honest, if you’re poor or black or tell the truth you’ll pay.

During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.  George Orwell

The Central Park Five documentary shows with amazing clarity, using facts and actual footage that these kids were framed.  The DA, detectives, police officers, and prosecutors knew these kids weren’t the perpetrators of this crime, and yet they prosecuted and convicted them anyway.  They got their promotions and their notoriety, and now that the truth is out they’re not only denying it but fighting it.  

Justice did not prevail.  Corruption did. 



When the War Comes Home

by Jill Dalton



Our country’s rocked by yet another mass shooting this time in Newtown, Connecticut.  This time, according to reports, a 20-year-old kid, Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, in their home then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School where he killed six adults including the principal and 20 children before killing himself.

This time three weapons were found in the car: a .223 caliber “Bushmaster” rifle and two pistols, a Sig Sauer and a Glock.  Adam’s mother, Nancy Lanza, a gun enthusiast who’d taken both her children to the rifle range to learn how to shoot, legally owned all these guns.

Image by Shepard Fairey                    

 This shooting, one of the deadliest in U.S. history, is second only to the rampage that killed 32 students at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. This in a country where just five months earlier another gunman killed 12 in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.,

I’m always amazed when Americans express their shock at yet another mass shooting when we live in a culture awash in violence.  In fact, we glorify violence.  It’s produced, packaged and promoted by Hollywood, television and video games.   We live in a country where we shoot first and ask questions later or not at all.  The NRA drafted the “stand your ground” law, which caused the senseless murder of Travon Martin, and this Neanderthal law has been enacted in 25 states.  We live in a culture where our government no longer negotiates to solve issues with other nations but instead uses preemptive illegal wars and we now find ourselves residing in a state of permanent war.

 We have a president who offers his condolences to the families, sheds a few tears over the loss as he reassures us, “Our hearts are broken today.” and promises “meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this.”  Then turns around and picks from his “kill list” who he’ll assassinate without due process via remote control by sending out one of his many drones of empire to track down and murder brown people, which results in the slaughter of innocent civilians including women and children, euphemistically referred to by our military as “collateral damage.”

 I ask myself what’s the difference between these mass shootings and murdering children in the Middle East?  Let’s be honest, we have a president who condones and carries out violence everyday and the American people make not so much as a peep about this.  Our racism runs so deep it’s become an acceptable norm.

 The paradox of the American psyche allows us to grieve over these white children while ignoring the brown ones in the Middle East.  I’m amazed at how good Americans are at denial and sticking our collective heads in the sand as we perpetrate violence against our own children by ignoring 16 million who live in poverty and go to sleep hungry and even homeless every night.  We have one of the highest child poverty rates in the world. 

 We’re somehow able to compartmentalize these situations in order to rationalize our atrocities.  This is what comes with a corporate culture now devoid of any real empathy for others.  If these were poor black children in New Orleans instead of white kids from Connecticut would our outcry be so loud?  It certainly wasn’t during Katrina.  We allowed people to rot in the heat and toxic waters for days without any help.

 Racism is so embedded into our collective unconscious we can’t even make the connection and, in fact, many are incensed when the comparison is even suggested. 

 And even when presented with the facts, like lemmings to the sea, the people proclaim, “They hate us for our freedoms.”  No, actually they hate us for our hypocrisy.  They hate us for pretending to promote democracy when, in fact, we support and install dictatorships (i.e. Shah of Iran) around the world and we’re not fighting terrorism so much as creating more of it as we struggle to steal resources while simultaneously bankrupting ourselves.

 People will go to great lengths to protect their worldview and if that worldview believes the U.S. are the good guys — the protectors of the world, despite facts to the contrary, than anything that challenges that belief, albeit how distorted that worldview is, will be met with huge resistance and hostility.



 We now live in a corporate culture based on fear and lack.  Our values have deteriorated from hard work, cooperation, and faith “All for one and one for all” to lovelessness, greed and profit at any cost.  Money is our God and when you worship the false god of greed the darkness moves in.

We’ve become desensitized to violence and our corporate culture is antithetical to human values. This violence and hardheartedness comes in many forms. 

We now live in a nation where corporations are people and money equals free speech.

We live in a rich nation that allows half it’s citizens to live in poverty or near poverty. 

We live in a nation that allows millions of her children to go to bed hungry and homeless yet spends billions on the military industrial complex and the surveillance police state that’s been put into place.

We live in a culture that condones banks foreclosing on people’s homes while stealing pensions and life savings and allows corporate CEO’s and Wall Street bankers to roam free without so much as a slap on the wrist for collapsing the global economy.

We live in a corporate culture where each year 44,000 people are allowed to die and denied health care so the insurance companies can make obscene profits.

We live in a culture where a person can be thrown in prison for smoking a joint but when banks and Wall Street steal billions and launder drug trafficking money it makes you a “Master of the Universe.” 

We live in a culture that spends $40,00 a year to incarcerate each prison inmate but only $8,000 a year to educate an elementary school student.

We live in a culture where whistleblowers are labeled terrorists while the real criminals remain in positions of power in our government and corporate halls.

We live in a culture that condones and conducts torture not just overseas but throughout our industrial prison complex. 

We live in a culture that supports the death penalty even though the rest of the world stopped this inhumane practice long ago. 

We live in a culture that spies on its citizens, illegally searches (be it the racially motivated New York Stop and Frisk law) or accosting U.S. citizens at every airport. 

We live in a culture that is destroying our unions and outsourcing our jobs so more and more people are not able to earn a living wage. 

We live in a culture where our police forces are now militarized and protect the 1%.

We live in a culture that shuts down peaceful protests (Occupy) while allowing extremist gun toting, racist spewing Tea Party rallies to chant their bile hatred without consequences.

We live in a culture that claims to export democracy while simultaneously stripping Americans of their rights.  And now that Obama’s signed the NDAA into law he can assassinate or put any U.S. citizen into prison without due process until the “end of hostilities,” which in a state of permanent war means indefinitely.

We live in a country where any fool with ready cash can buy an automatic weapon without a background check. 

We live in a culture where 2nd Amendment rights are held up as a sacred cow, as the rest of the Bill of Rights is shredded.



 Changing the gun laws will not change the hatred in people’s hearts but we have no business selling automatic or semi automatic weapons designed to make sure the victim does not survive. We have stricter laws governing hunting then regarding these assault weapons of mass destruction, which should not be allowed for personal use under any circumstances.

 Guns in the U.S kill 35 people a day. 

 The NRA screams 2nd Amendment rights as their posse of gun lobbyists buy off legislators to protect their right to buy, sell and own automatic weapons.  But what about my rights as a U.S. citizen not to be murdered by someone with a grudge, mental problem or on some over prescribed/under supervised hallucinogenic prescription drug who can pick up a gun at the nearest Wal-Mart or gun show and decide to take out anyone he pleases.  Where are my rights? 

 The NRA calling for more guns in schools as a solution is insanity and just another knee jerk reaction that will lead to more shootings. 

 “Making guns easily accessible to everyone does not make our communities safer: the evidence is clear that more guns mean more homicide.”  “Firearms Research: Homicide,” Harvard School of Public Health, accessed 01-03-13.

 And according to a recent study by Texas A&M University the “stand your ground” law has increased homicide rates between 7-9% in the states that implemented it.  More guns do not make us safer.  

 Back in August in New York City during rush hour there was a gunman near the Empire State building and 9 victims were wounded all by police gunfire.  If the police can’t stay calm under pressure then how can a school principal or teacher?  So I guess we’ll hire armed guards to run our schools like the prison industrial complex.

 The NRA doesn’t care about your children.  They care about profits.  The bottom line.  Money.  That’s why they lobby so hard on Capital Hill.  The NRA and the people who insist on these high-powered weapons (mainly white males who fear blacks) are cowards. 

 As for those who fear the government will come and get you rest assured if they want you you’re no match for the Navy Seal team they’ll send to your house to apprehend you.

 We don’t need more guns.  We need fewer guns and stricter gun checks.  We need to enforce strict background checks and gun owners should be required to get a license similar to what we do for driving a car and to carry insurance so if they shoot or kill anyone they’ll have to pay. 

I personally detest guns but I don’t believe our government has the right to confiscate them either.  My Colonel father owned guns, which he kept under lock and key.  I never saw one unless he took them out to clean them except once when he thought we had a burglar downstairs. My father called out in a very loud voice, “I’m going to get my gun.”  I said, “Are you going to shoot someone?”  His reply, “If someone’s in my house I will.”  Now, I realize he was speaking loudly to give the would-be burglar, if indeed there was one, a chance to get the heck out of our house.  Because dealing with weapons was part of my father’s profession there was total respect for them and what they’re used for, to kill people. 

 We are a culture awash in violence that uses war to negotiate and in the words of Jeremiah Wright, “The chickens have come home to roost.”

Timeline of mass shootings.



 After yet another one of these shootings I always wonder what would drive a child to pick up a weapon and commit mass murder?  The Secret Service did a study on assassins, the Exceptional Case Study Project, then extended the study to include 32 school shooters and released their findings in 2002.  Contrary to popular belief there is no set profile for these shooters, however, they do follow certain action steps, which occur over days, weeks, months of planning, which the Secret Service calls the pathway to attack.  These actions include:

 They pick a weapon.

They practice with the weapon.

2/3’s of the assassins tell someone about their plans for the attack.  They also usually write about it.

They feel desperate and believe violence will solve their problems.

They believe they needed a gun to be heard because nobody cared.

They couldn’t find a reason not to do it.

Afterwards they feel remorse, as it didn’t work out the way they thought it would.

 Many times school shooters are victims of bullying.  In the case of the shooter Luke Woodham, (16), he killed 2 students, injured 7 others at his high school on Oct 1, 1997 at Pearl High School in Mississippi but first he stabbed and bludgeoned his mother to death.

He was mad at the way people treated him.  Classmates pushed him around; called him gay or stupid, and threw rocks at him.  Minutes prior to the shooting Woodham gave this message to a friend.

“I am not insane, I am angry. I killed because people like me are mistreated every day. I did this to show society, push us and we will push back. … All throughout my life, I was ridiculed, always beaten, always hated. Can you, society, truly blame me for what I do? Yes, you will. … It was not a cry for attention; it was not a cry for help. It was a scream in sheer agony saying that if you can’t pry your eyes open, if I can’t do it through pacifism, if I can’t show you through the displaying of intelligence, then I will do it with a bullet.”

Woodham wished he’d been stopped.  He’d been acting out over the course of 2-3 years, turning up the volume and trying to get someone to intervene but in a violent macho gun culture where boys are not allowed to express their feelings let alone cry they cry bullets instead.

One of the most profound findings of the Secret Service study revealed 90% of all the school shooters were on prescription drugs with little or no therapy or supervision for their mental or physical conditions.  In the case of Adam Lanza, he had Asperger’s a form of autism and he too was on medication.

The findings from the Secret Service report immediately raised a red flag for me.  Here’s a list of school shooters and medications they were taking.



 War is big business.  Guns are big business.  The military industrial complex and weapon manufacturers who traffic in fear, murder and lies are stealing our money, our conscience and our future.  Our politicians are bought and paid for and to expect them to do anything is absurd. 

 Mark my words there will be no effective gun reform.  Our government is dysfunctional and paralyzed.  The Feinstein bill, a band aide posing as a solution, exempts 900 weapons.  Our legislators are very “Slim Shady” when it comes to these bills.  They put fancy names on them and then exempt the criminal activity they’re supposed to protect us from.  The so-called whistleblower protection bill Obama just signed is another one of these bills.  If you read further this bill exempts the CIA, FBI, Pentagon and any part of the Surveillance State from being held accountable.

Some believe if we just vote these people out of office things will change but this will only change the players on the chessboard.  Our system is corrupt from top to bottom.  Corporate forces have taken over our government and we must get money out of politics and over turn Citizens United.

Where is our outrage?  Where is our conscience?  We’ve become just like the Germans in the 1930’s and turned a blind eye to what is really going on in our country.  We must find the courage to stand up and speak out.  It’s up to each individual to take responsibility as a citizen of this country and decide is this how you want to live?  Is this the America you want?

Humanity is doomed until we can learn to resolve our disputes without violence and I believe we can stigmatize these weapons of mass destruction just like we did cigarettes and drunk driving in order to reduce our gun violence to a manageable level.  And why are we medicating our children?  Why do parents allow this when their minds are not even fully developed?  Drugging a child is not therapy except in extreme cases and certainly not effective parenting. We need to look into this. 

We’re living in fear-based thinking.  Fear is a dark ugly energy with a dark ugly voice that talks to people in ugly ways and encourages us to make wrong decisions.  Violence is the wrong decision.  People have to give up the fear or nothing will change.  It’s our belief system.  Our inner beliefs are merely being projected outward and made manifest into the world

Violence in our culture runs deep but we can no longer afford to live in an “us versus them” universe.  It no longer serves us and it doesn’t work.  Separation is of the ego.  We are one.  What we do to our brothers we do to ourselves.  People are awakening globally and standing up against the dark forces of tyranny.  The violence in the world we are experiencing is created by the hatred in our hearts and the negative thoughts of fear we project out into the world. 

 734964_445134522207586_1802897985_nOur permanent war, violent, high tech, consumer driven culture glorifies torture claiming it’s a useful way to stop terrorist attacks (Zero Dark Thirty) or that repeatedly raping an unconscious 16-year-old girl until they believed she was dead was all in good fun and she deserved it after all (Steubenville, Ohio football team and their supporters).  Is this what passes for entertainment and acceptable behavior? 

 “A Course in Miracles” teaches, “you become what you defend against.” And in our case we’ve become the terrorists we claim to loath and despise.  We’ve become the dark side.  So unless our consciousness is raised and we evolve we will soon destroy ourselves in a demise of our own ego making. 


Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars…Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

Martin Luther King, Jr.