Trisha Meili

From Academic Kids

Trisha Meili (b. June 24, 1960) was the victim of a high-profile rape case in New York City.

The crime

On April 19, 1989, the 28-year-old investment banker was violently assaulted while jogging in New York City's Central Park. In addition to being raped, she was beaten near death— when found, she was suffering from deadly hypothermia and blood loss, and her skull had been fractured. The initial prognosis of her physicians was that she would die or remain in a permanent coma due to her injuries, but she recovered fully, with no memory of the event.

The crime provoked public outrage. According to a police investigation, the culprits were teenage men who would assault strangers, often in gangs, as part of an activity they called "wilding". April 19 was known to have been a night when wilding occurred. Five teenaged suspects were identified as the assailants, tried, and convicted in 1990. Four of the men involved confessed to the crime, but later doubts involving possible coercion put those confessions into doubt. Nonetheless, the confessions were considered so damning that few doubted the men's guilt. Yusef Salaam, one of the men convicted, allegedly referred to the assault as "fun", while others described the assault in graphic detail.

Exoneration of criminals

In 2002, convicted rapist and murderer Matias Reyes, serving a life sentence for other crimes but not, to that point, charged for this one, declared that he committed the assault, and that he acted alone. DNA evidence confirmed his participation in the crime. There had been no physical evidence to connect the other five men to the crime and their convictions were based on their confessions. Supporters of the five defendants claimed their confessions were coerced, while opponents proposed that Reyes participated in the crime with the other five men, or that he attacked Meili after they left the scene. Based on Reyes's confession, a judge exonerated the five defendants in 2002, though four of them, having been tried as juveniles, received shorter prison sentences and had already been free at the time.

Because of continuing stigma associated with being the victim of a sexual crime, and the trauma that victims of such crimes often face, the American media generally do not reveal the identity of sexual assault victims, nor the identities of juvenile criminals. Thus, Meili was often identified as the "Central Park Jogger". However, the City Sun, an African-American newspaper, did publish the jogger's name, making it de facto public knowledge in New York. The names of the defendants also became well-known. In 2003, Meili revealed her identity in an effort to help other victims and released a book I Am the Central Park Jogger.


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