Thirty years after he bought full-page newspaper ads calling for the return of the death penalty in the wake of the Central Park Five case, President Trump refused to apologize to the five young men exonerated in 2002—and suggested they might still be guilty. When reporter April Ryan asked him about the case Tuesday, the president said: "You have people on both sides of that," the Washington Post reports. "They admitted their guilt," he said. "If you look at some of the prosecutors, they think that the city should never have settled that case, so we'll leave it at that." New York City settled with five wrongfully convicted defendants for $41 million after a man already in prison confessed to the 1989 rape and near-fatal beating of a Central Park jogger and DNA linked him to the crime.
Trump made similar remarks when he was asked about the case in 2016, NBC reports. "The police doing the original investigation say they were guilty," he said. The five men, whose case has received renewed attention with Netflix miniseries When They See Us, have said their confessions were coerced. They were all 16 or younger when they were arrested. "It's shocking and deeply troubling that after all of these years, he would not have recognized that by calling for the reinstitution of the death penalty, it contributed to an atmosphere that deprived these men of a fair trial," Barry Scheck, an Innocence Project lawyer who worked to have the case reopened, tells the New York Times. (A former Manhattan prosecutor involved in the case has resigned from two positions.)