Trump said “They should be forced to suffer”

As I’ve mentioned, because I’ve always avoided taking any notice of Donald Trump, I’ve missed much about his sleazy career. I just read up on one item from 1989, recalled by Matt Ford in The Atlantic a few months ago. I felt rising nausea as I read.

It was an otherwise unremarkable event when Donald Trump received the endorsement of the New England Police Benevolent Association, a union of police and correctional officers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, on December 10. As he addressed the crowd in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Trump restated his support for police officers and for the death penalty for those who kill them. Then he articulated a new proposal to demonstrate that support.

One of the first things I’d do in terms of executive order if I win would be to sign a strong, strong statement that will go out to the country, out to the world, that anybody caught killing a policeman, policewoman, police officer, anybody killing a police officer: death penalty. It’s gonna happen. OK? We can’t let this go.

But, Ford points out, the Supreme Court ruled against mandatory death sentences in 1976. Also most death sentences are a state matter, not federal. Also, there’s the little matter of separation of powers. Trump seems to think of the presidency as a dictatorship – which is another reason to hope he gets nowhere near it.

Finally, and most importantly, the president doesn’t have the lawful power to unilaterally impose a criminal punishment on anyone, whether it be a fine, a prison sentence, or death. Presidents can wield the pardoning power to reduce or remove punishments for federal crimes, but they can neither increase nor enact them. The American legal system delegates that responsibility to judges and juries. Infringing on that separation of power through executive order would, at minimum, violate the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments’ guarantees of due process.

Oh, that.

Trump has a history of invoking the death penalty without regard for its limitations. After the brutal rape of a white jogger in Central Park in May 1989 received widespread media attention, and amid a rise in crime rates nationwide, Trump took out a full-age ad in four New York City newspapers with the title “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY! BRING BACK THE POLICE!” He did not specifically reference the Central Park jogger attack in the ad, but its timing made the connection inescapable.

That’s where the nausea started to rise. Wtf? Who does he think he is?

The ad itself is truly emetic:

Mayor [Ed] Koch has stated that hate and rancor should be removed from our hearts. I do not think so. I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, should be executed for their crimes. They must serve as examples so that others will think long and hard before committing a crime or an act of violence. Yes, Mayor Koch, I want to hate these murderers and I always will. I am not looking to psychoanalyze them or understand them, I am looking to punish them. If the punishment is strong, the attacks on innocent people will stop. I recently watched a newscast trying to explain “the anger in these young men.” I no longer want to understand their anger. I want them to understand our anger. I want them to be afraid.

How can our great society tolerate the continued brutalization of its citizens by crazed misfits? Criminals must be told that their CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS!

There speaks a terrible human being. There is displayed the reactionary mind at is ugliest. He makes me ashamed.

Five teenagers were arrested, tried and convicted of the rape.

When Trump published his full-page ads, police had already arrested five suspects for the crimes, all of whom were young black and Hispanic men between the ages of 14 and 16. Each had been named in connection with unrelated beatings and attacks in the park that night. Of the five teenagers, who would later be known as the Central Park Five, four were 14 or 15 years old. The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled the previous year in Thompson v. Oklahoma that executing a 15-year-old would be cruel and unusual punishment. However, the fifth defendant had been 16 years old at the time of the attack, and the Court had upheld the death penalty for 16- and 17-year-olds in Stanford v. Kentucky in the summer between his arrest and his trial.

But even if all of the Central Park Five had been old enough to qualify for death sentences, none of them could have been executed for the crime. The Supreme Court had already abolished the death penalty for rape over a decade earlier in the 1977 case Coker v. Georgia. The Court’s opinion, written by Justice Thurgood Marshall, avoided citing the vast racial disparities in death sentences for rape in its reasoning. But the justices, especially Marshall, were aware of those disparities and likely motivated by them. Between 1930 and 1972, only Southern and border states still imposed the death penalty for rape; over 90 percent of those executed for it were black.

Trump was born too late and too far north. He would have had a happy, fulfilled life as a Mississippi sheriff who retired in 1955.

And then there’s the kicker: the “Central Park Five” didn’t do it. (I did know that. It’s Trump’s intervention I had blocked out.)

All five teenagers were eventually tried, convicted, and sentenced to multiple years in prison for the Central Park rape. Then, years later, it was revealed that none of them had actually committed the crime.

The “park marauders,” the “roving gang,” the “crazed misfits” were fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen years old. The confessions they gave, as children, had been false, spun out under the pressure of hours of police interrogations. (They were, had anyone been ready to acknowledge it at the time, also inconsistent; they also had parents whom they weren’t able to see before their questioning.) The boys were sent to prison. One of them, Kharey Wise, who at sixteen was the oldest and sentenced as an adult, was still there when, eleven years after the rape in the park, he happened to cross paths with a prisoner named Matias Reyes. It occurred to Reyes that it was his fault that Wise was there. He confessed that he, and he alone, had raped and beaten Meili, as he had raped other women over the years. He described to police how he had tied her with her clothes; it had been part of his M.O. in other cases, something that gave credibility to his confession. It moved beyond a doubt when a DNA test matched Reyes to the semen found on Meili’s body. The DNA hadn’t matched any of the teen-agers—one of the many details that got blinked over in the trial. They were exonerated twelve years ago, and the charges were formally dropped.


Good thing Trump didn’t get his way with that ad.

But he wasn’t finished.

The Central Park Five sued the city for their wrongful prosecution and received a $40 million settlement in 2014, $1 million for every year of their lives wrongfully spent behind bars. Shortly after the news of the settlement broke, Trump published an op-ed in the New York Daily News calling it “a disgrace.”

Forty million dollars is a lot of money for the taxpayers of New York to pay when we are already the highest taxed city and state in the country. The recipients must be laughing out loud at the stupidity of the city.

Speak to the detectives on the case and try listening to the facts. These young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels.

That’s all the nausea I can take right now.

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