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 extra-judicial 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.
One of the men, Kevin Richardson, commented:
“It seems that this man is for some strange reason obsessed with sex and rape and black and Latino men… I would say this obsession of his is one of the strangest things I have ever heard of, except we know that it’s not exactly rare, that it’s been used to whip up lynch mobs and pass laws and take people’s lives at the end of a rope in this country before.”
Willie Manning must be only too aware of this obsession: he has been vilified time and time again in the local media.
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 and inconsistency, could see a resurgence. It is a chilling prospect.