April 18, 2013

Movie Review: The Central Park Five

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I've been wanting to watch "The Central Park Five" (it's on my Netflix but not available yet) but PBS aired it Tuesday night so I decided to tune in. I'm glad I did. A disheartening story about our police departments. If you're unfamiliar with the story, here's a brief synopsis: "...five black and Latino teenagers from Harlem were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in New York City’s Central Park in 1989. The film chronicles The Central Park Jogger case, for the first time from the perspective of these five teenagers whose lives were upended by this miscarriage of justice." Those five teenagers who were ranged from 14 to 16 years old were Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise.

"Their innocence never got the attention that their guilt did... These were kids who we tormented, attacked, wrongly accused... and sent to jail, falsely convicted... We walked away from our crime." - Craig Steven Wilder

This story gets more and more heartbreaking with every turn. The setting is a highly tense New York City who is dealing with a lot of crime in 1989. A group of young boys decided to go into the park. These 5 decided to hang back while some others picked on cyclists riding through the park or even a homeless man. However, when the police came and everyone decided to scatter they were picked up. After sitting in the police department for a few hours, the detectives received a call that they found a body so to hold the boys for questioning. These teenagers were interrogated for 14-30 hours with no food, barely any interaction with their family and no lawyers present. "Their goal was to wear them down to a point of a confession." And that's what they got. However, any good detective could see that none of their stories matched up. They weren't able to give specifics about the crime that the real criminal could.

"This will be a test of the system" - Mayor Ed Koch

These were 14, 15, 16 year old boys who never been handcuffed who were promised they could go home if they gave the other person up. After 30 hours of interrogation, they agreed. The police department filmed their confessions, which were coerced out of them. The boys would soon learn that they were not going home. In 1990 there was a trial. One jury saw how the video taped confessions didn't match up and there was no DNA evidence linking them to the crime scene. But he was harassed by other jury members to find them guilty so everyone could go home. So he did. The boys were charged with attempted murder, rape, and sexual assault.

Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, and Raymond Santana who were all under 16 went sent to juvenile detention where they served 7 years. Korey Wise unfortunately was 16 and was tried as an adult. He served a more severed sentence and went to Riker's Island. Imagine being 16-years old and being in prison with major criminals at Riker's Island? Horrifying. After serving 7 years, it was difficult for these young men to land on their feet. They had to file as sex offenders and therefore couldn't find jobs. Raymond Santana ended up selling drugs and landed back in jail.

Korey Wise who was serving 13 years at Riker's Island was only freed because he ran into the real rapist at prison. Matias Reyes decided to confess in order to free this innocent man. Their names were not cleared because the police department finally decided to compare DNA evidence from the crime scene to other similar crimes convicted by Reyes but because the rapist himself went to the police to say "hey, I did it."

After being cleared of all charges, the public was still not convinced or brushed it off. These young boys spent 7 to 13 years in jail. They lost their youth and came out different men because of it. Then there was a trial to investigate the police department who wrongly convicted these five teenagers and there was no evidence of wrong-doing. Even though because of their intention of convicting these innocent boys distracted them from capturing the real rapist who went on to torment women. Shocking.

The last "screw you" by New York City is the unresolved civil suit. When someone is wrongly convicted of a charge, the city owes them a debt. These five men filed a lawsuit and the issue still is not settled nearly 10 years later. The film's director, who was recently on The Daily Show, explained that the city doesn't want to accept responsibility and this civil suit is going to go on unresolved. This case is so tragic on so many levels. New York City and the detectives involved in this case were not held responsible for ruining the lives of these 5 innocent men. Hopefully this case serves as a lesson and our system never forgets.

What movies have you watched recently?


  1. I've been hearing a lot about this film, but never knew what it was about. Thank you for sharing this post/ I'll have to view this on Netflix myself.

  2. Netflix said it's available the 23rd so hope you do watch :)


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