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Central Park kills Black parents

Alton H.Maddox | , Jr. | 4/12/2011, 4:38 p.m.

When the Scottsboro Boys were falsely arrested, prosecuted and convicted in Scottsboro, Ala., there were no Black "citizens" in Alabama in 1931. The three branches of government were off-limits to Blacks. No Black suspect could be prosecuted as a "citizen." The Scottsboro Boys were not even given the protections of prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.

Instead, they were prosecuted as enemy combatants, despite the 14th Amendment. Blacks learned in the Slaughterhouse Cases that any rights they enjoyed had to be found in state law. This would be like telling the chickens that the foxes would protect them. Black rights are still being defined by the Ku Klux Klan.

If you fast-forward the Scottsboro Boys to the Central Park Boys, little was learned from the illegal prosecutions of the Scottsboro Nine. There are still no federal protections for Black suspects or Black lawyers. All of the Harlem youths who were falsely arrested were also falsely convicted of "wilding," at the very least. Five boys were wrongfully convicted of raping a white woman under a penal law imported from South Africa.

Although Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau admitted on NY1 recently that his office had made a mistake in prosecuting the Black and Latino youths in the Central Park case, his admission has not triggered the filing of an accusatory instrument against his office.

New York Penal Law 15.20 provides in part: "A person is not relieved of criminal liability for conduct because he engages in such conduct under a mistaken belief of fact..."The New York Legislature must also define a prosecutorial agency as a "person." A criminal defendant is not relieved of criminal liability even if he or she had made a good-faith mistake. On the other hand, a law enforcement official is excused of criminal liability if he or she had made a good-faith mistake in enforcing the law.

This disparity in treatment does not square with the 14th Amendment, however. The U.S. Supreme Court elevates law enforcement officials over the U.S. Constitution. State-sponsored law enforcement officials are able to run roughshod over the Constitution. Mr. Morgenthau is unable to argue that it was a good-faith mistake since his office knew or should have known that the boys were innocent. DNA results had exonerated them of any connection to the April 19,1989,crime scene in Central Park.

These results were unimportant to law enforcement officials. This official indifference was expected of law enforcement officials acting under state law. When a white woman is raped, any Black man's blood will satisfy the thirst of white supremacists. Apparently, U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts has not heard of Mr. Morgenthau's admission, since she is still giving deference to the prosecutor's right to benefit from qualified immunity. Unless a civil rights plaintiff can prove a bad-faith prosecution, the civil rights complaint must fall.

If the Central Park plaintiffs had been playing on a level playing field, these young men would already have some money in their pockets. The Bronx Supreme Court recently ruled that a wrongfully con- victed defendant who had been imprisoned for nine months was entitled to a $1.5 million settlement by New York City.