Gov. Cuomo Signs Frontus/Montgomery Central Park 5 Bill to Protect Juveniles in Family Court Proceedings

Brooklyn lawmakers today lauded the passage of their Central Park 5 bill, requiring video recording of all juveniles accused of delinquency in family court.

The legislation (S.6533/A.7970) was introduced by Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus and Sen. Velmanette Montgomery and signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week. Previously, video recordings were required only in the few cases where minors were accused of violent felonies.

“When the power of law enforcement is focused on minors, we must make sure that they are not coerced or manipulated into confessing to something that is not true,” Frontus said. “What happened to the Central Park 5, who we now refer to as the Exonerated 5, should never happen to any child, and the way to ensure that is with the transparency that these recordings will provide.”

“Even though we passed Raise the Age, there are still so many corners of the juvenile justice system that need to be addressed,” Montgomery said. “These coercive situations are not uncommon. Our children should never find themselves in a room alone with law enforcement and no record of the interaction.”

Though New York’s Raise the Age legislation increased the age of criminal responsibility to 18 and treats 16- and 17-year-olds as adolescent offenders, some parts of the juvenile justice system are not covered by that law. By requiring that all interrogations are recorded, the Central Park 5 bill ensures that juveniles in family court are protected from coercive tactics, reducing abuses and promoting accountability in the juvenile justice system.

The bill was named for the Central Park 5, who were all juveniles when they were convicted of sexually assaulting a jogger in 1989. They later become known as the Exonerated 5 when their convictions were overturned following identification of the real attacker. Each of the Exonerated 5 defendants endured hours of interrogation without an adult present and served years in prison for a crime they did not commit. The City of New York has paid out $45 million in settlements with the Exonerated 5 defendants, whose story was detailed in the series When They See Us.1

1 https://www.thewrap.com/central-park-five-received-additional-3-9-million-settlement-from-new-york-in-2016-report/; https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/a27574472/when-they-see-us-central-park-5-false-confessions/