Central Park jogger rape case causes frenzy in media, New York: Part 5

The news that five black and Latino teens had been accused of being involved in the rape and assault of a white woman created a heightened sense of fear and thirst for vengeance in New York City.
8:54 | 05/25/19

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Transcript for Central Park jogger rape case causes frenzy in media, New York: Part 5
There was applause and tears from doctors and nurses when this brave young woman came out of a coma. Trisha's recovery, neurologically, as with anyone like this, is fairly slow and by graduated steps. You had children, schoolchildren showing up and holding vigils outside. Cardinal o'connor made a visit there. Frank Sinatra sent her flowers. She woke up and looked around and saw the flowers and said, you know, "Holy smoke, what's going on? Why is Frank Sinatra sending me flowers?" She had no sense of the magnitude of the news, of the story. They found her enter raped her. South and north of the park. The headlines were just extraordinary. The media was all over this thing. According to police, they bragged and laughed about the rape and beating. This was one of the most compelling stories that New York could see, that a reporter could cover. It took politics, power, rape, racial politics, controversy. People were so angry about what happened. I just want to come up here and find somebody and do bodily harm. So there were a total of ten people over several months who were charged and either convicted or plead guilty to various crimes in central park. The D.A. Decides to charge a group of teenagers in the attack on Trish meili. One of those, Steve Lopez, decides to plead to a lesser charge when he's offered a deal. Some witnesses against him had evaporated. And that left five. Five teenagers -- Kevin Richardson, antron Mccray, Yusef salaam, Raymond santana, Korey wise. Kids, really. The hysteria that was being drummed up in the press fed into the fear that already existed because of the high rates of crime in the city. And the phrase that was used that was a new phrase was the "Wilding." They go around and they do crazy things. Sometimes they do it for fun. Sometimes they it for money. They do it just to do it. We started hearing this term, wilding, this phenomena where kids of color go berserk and try to harm people. The wilding phenomenon. It's all over the newspapers every day, every news broadcast. Wilding. Wilding. Wilding, by any name, it means terror. They were the wolfpack. They were described in these beastly terms, which are signature racial, racist terms. They were monsters in the minds of the media and the public that feared them. That fear of the sexual violation of white women at the hands of black men is a fear that goes all the way back to the days of slavery in this country. And it is inextricably connected to the history of lynching, mob violence, all the kind of worst depredations that black people suffered. These kids were as everyday kids as you can be. They were just starting their high school careers. Antron played little league. Kevin danced in school. Yusef was an artist. They came from strong, supportive families. What they were not involved in were criminal activities. None of them had a record at that time. I think race played a big role. Had we been white youths, they probably would have, you know, contacted the legal aid people and probably had some lawyers down there to speak to us. But because we were from black and Latin communities, because we were from, some of us, impoverished homes, it's like, "Hey, who's going to mind that another black youth or another Latin youth is off the street? They're criminals anyway." If it was a black woman, y'all wouldn't even be here. Channel seven, anybody else, "The post," anybody else news would not be here. Okay? And it all contributed to this heightened sense of fear in New York and this thirst for vengeance. There was this rising tide of these boys becoming the symbols of all that was wrong in New York. This is why we need to come down on these young teenagers, these thugs. We do not want to see racial hysteria used to predetermine the rights of some teenagers. Even in the black and Latino community, we that wanted to stand for them were in the minority. It was by no means a popular stand. It could've been me. Could've been her. Could've been any of us. I ain't got no patience with none of them. I hope you get them. I think those guys should be sent away for life. And the press who rely on the police for their information about crimes, or largely rely on the police, felt that the case was solved. I think that it was this kind of assumption, "Well, they must have done it." Right? They confessed. People were in a frenzy. The people weren't all that concerned about fairness and about justice. That plus a very live and active newspaper war between the tabloids, it led people to places they really shouldn't have gone. You better believe that I hate the people that took this girl and raped her brutally. In a full-page ad scheduled to appear in tomorrow's New York City newspapers, millionaire businessman Donald Trump calls for the reinstatement of the state's death penalty. Donald Trump at the time was kind of a swaggering real estate developer, man about town. How does it feel taking pictures of these playboy bunnies? Well, somebody has to do it. What Donald Trump did was whip up the climate of frenzy around this case a notch higher. Were you prejudging those arrested? No. I'm not prejudging at all. I'm not in this particular case. I'm saying if they're found guilty, if the woman died, which she hopefully will not be dying, but if the woman died, I think they should be executed. He's saying, "Kill 'em!" And I never, ever could describe how enraged I got to call for these kids to be, in effect, lynched. Legal lynching. It should be played out in a court of law, not in the newspapers, not on TV. Those people who made this a media frenzy and set us up so that we could be convicted in the press before we even went to trial. How do you find a jury that's gonna be impartial with five men that they've read deserve to be lynched? It skews the jury. It has to. You would like to execute them now. Is that your position? Castrate em. They can't rape again. This is before the arraignment. This is before anything resembling a trial. They were not gonna get the benefit of the doubt in that atmosphere. The key victim people are waiting to see if they hear from is the central park investment banking jogger herself. It was one of the most anticipated, riveting courtroom moments that I have ever experienced. When I walked to the witness stand the first time, I remember I was very nervous. There's a big problem for the prosecutors. They don't have a shred of DNA, and not a whole lot of evidence, period, that links the central park five to the crime, the victim or the scene. No physical or forensic evidence against those boys. And yet, the police know that there's a missing man. That there is a rapist out there. Something that haunted me for years was we always felt that we never got everybody. There had to be another guy.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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