President Obama has misgivings about the application of the death penalty; President Trump will have no such qualms.
In 1989 Trump funded full page ads in four New York newspapers, calling for the return of the death penalty. The ads referred obliquely to a Central Park rape case, in which 5 black and Latino teenagers were accused of assaulting and raping a white woman. The rhetoric helped to fuel a lynch mob mentality about the case.
Trump justified his extrajudicial methods with the disturbing retort,
“Maybe hate is what we need.”
The 5 young teenagers had been interrogated over many hours without food, drink or sleep, with no lawyers and often no parents present; they were terrified. Naively believing they would be allowed home if they submitted, four gave way to the pressure: they said they had been at the crime scene, but blamed others for the rape.
The four statements were inconsistent and lacked credibility, but were enough to convict them. The “Central Park Five” were sentenced to between 8 and 13 years in prison.
In 2002 a serial rapist confessed to the crime, and DNA evidence confirmed his guilt. The sentences of the five young men were vacated.
As recently as last month, Trump reiterated his belief in the men’s guilt, refusing to credit the evidence to the contrary.
As Amy Goodman commented,
“[T]he police were so intent on getting the [Central Park Five], that [the serial rapist], who was committing these crimes at the time, who was sent to prison for these crimes, was never in any way linked, because of their blindness in this case.”
Jeffrey Wogenstahl must be only too aware of this kind of blindness: in his case, too, the evidence suggests that the police limited their investigation to Jeff, ignoring the many indications that somebody else was the murderer.
Trump will take his attitudes to the presidency, affecting his choice of Supreme Court justice – or justices – and possibly relaxing the stance of the FDA towards imported lethal injection drugs. The President-elect has advocated the torture of waterboarding, so is unlikely to be troubled by the prospect of torturous, botched executions. Under President Trump, the death penalty, riddled as it is with racism, inconsistency and injustice, could see a resurgence. It is a chilling prospect.