When they see us - a short review

So I binge watched this Netflix mini series recently, I am yet to watch the hour long interview of the 5 men. directed by Oprah and Award winning Black Female Producer Ava DuVernay. This took 4 years to make.


Lemme put a trailer.


Its about 5 teenage boys, 4 black, 1 Hispanic the youngest fourteen who were sentenced falsely for raping and almost killing a female white jogger called Trisha Meilli who almost died, almost bleed and froze to death. Both the DA and prosecutor were white women.

What stood out for me was the melange of sensitive issues society sweeps under the rag. Starkly portrayed. One is racism. False incarceration and shoddy trials of minorities. The other rape/assault of women and how dangerous a place a world can be for women.The victim blaming of women who are assaulted. Questions like what was a woman doing jogging in a park at 9pm.Btw 20 years later she still jogs. Very resilient woman.


The other is the culpability,trial, sentencing of children, and teenagers who could be criminals particularly the older ones say 16 yrs old who end up with hardened criminals in very hostile facilities like Rikers Island rather than in Juvenile Jails.

The 5 boys falsely jailed spent 15 years in jail each. The stigma suffered by their families. Including losing jobs and not being able to find others. Since this was a very high profile case in the media. Out of this very dark series, there were heartwarming moments of the tenacity of the love of the mothers of these boys. The love of family and what a powerful force it can be in moments of utter despair. One scene that stood out for me was that of the dad of the Hispanic boy asking him what he’d had for dinner, for 15 years he visited and called. The love of a parent is an amazing thing.
The resolve of these boys to never admit guilt not even for a chance for an early release blew my mind. As Papa Mujica a political prisoner, in solitary confinement for 11 years with no book and nothing to do says, a man with convictions is a strong animal.

Don’t want to say anymore and spoil it for you but guys you really need to watch this series. It’s absolutely amazing. Very well made. Well produced.And I forgot to say, a star studded cast with amazing chemistry.

Here are the Central Park Five now the exonerated Five Twenty Years later.


One last thing, if you are an alfa mail or female and don’t want to start crying infront of people. Watch it alone. It’s 4 episodes but especially the last two episodes are extremely heartwrenching and moving have a box of tissues at hand. These boys have been to hell and back literally. God Bless them and their amazing families who stood by them and saw them through.

Those guys who do not believe in God, there are some coincidences here that will just blow you away as to how these ended up being exonerated.Dont wanna give it away. Go watch it to find out . It’s an amazing story. AMAZING!!!

For the academically inclined who want deeper critical analysis kama mimi

PBS documentary Framed The Central Park Five


There’s a book by Sarah Burns, she did it as an academic research so that would be pretty cool if you can find it’s called

The Central Park Five: A Chronicle of a City Wilding.

The award winning documentary that followed the book


Kali sana

Thesis ndizo hizo, couldnt find Sarah Burns Thesis though, definately will scour the internet for a torrent of her book,
The Central Park Five: A Chronicle of a City Wilding.

Everyone who’s reviewed it says they read the book in one sitting, one guy did it in 26hrs straight.

Complete Thesis : Saintly Victim(s), Savage Assailants: Race, Rape and, Media Portrayals of the Central Park Jogger Case by Thomas Palacios Beddall of Bard College


An excerpt from the book Savage Portrayals: Race, Media and the Central Park Jogger Story


Interviews: Ive watched a few this one stood out to me.


Cant find the Oprah Interview
[SIZE=7]Oprah Winfrey Presents: When They See Us Now[/SIZE]

but heres a pretty good review of it

[SIZE=7]Everything You Missed in Oprah’s ‘When They See Us’ Interview With the Central Park 5[/SIZE]
[SIZE=6]Ava Duvernay, the Netflix show’s cast, and the five real men came together for this Netflix special.[/SIZE]

Jun 14, 2019
[li]On June 12, the Oprah Winfrey Network and Netflix aired a special interview between Oprah and the Central Park Five.[/li][li]The five men are the subjects of Netflix’s miniseries When They See Us.[/li][li]During the interview, Oprah also spoke with director Ava Duvernay and the [I]When They See Us [/I]cast.[/li][/ul]
Two weeks after the release of When They See Us, the Netflix miniseries about the five black and Latino boys known as the “Central Park Five” has taken the world by storm. With the poignant way that it tells the stories of Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, and Yusef Salaam, the show has touched the hearts — and ignited the fury — of many Netflix viewers.

Behind the Scenes of “Netflix & Pill” on “Roseanne”
by Good Housekeeping US

So, on June 12, Oprah sat down with When They See Us creator Ava Duvernay, the show’s cast, and the real Central Park Five for a powerful conversation about the making of the show and the true story behind it. Here are some of the highlights you might have missed from her interview, appropriately titled Oprah Winfrey Presents: When They See Us Now.
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[SIZE=6]The title for the series was originally Central Park Five.[/SIZE]
While speaking with Ava (who has also directed such acclaimed films as Selmaand 13th), Oprah revealed that the working title for the Netflix miniseries was Central Park Five — that is, until Ava insisted that the name of the project be changed.
“‘Central Park Five’ felt like something that had been put upon the real men by the press, by the prosecutors, by the police,” Ava explained. “It took away their faces. It took away their families. It took away their pulses and their beating hearts — it dehumanized them … We needed [the title] to be more than Central Park Five.”
When They See Us creator Ava Duvernay listens to a question from Oprah while filming the When They See Us Now special.
[SIZE=6]Korey saw the five boys as not the “Central Park Five,” but the “Central Park Four Plus One.”[/SIZE]

As is now well known, Korey was not originally a suspect in the Central Park Jogger rape investigation, but he accompanied his friend Yusef Salaam to the police station and was ultimately pulled into the interrogation. While he told Oprah he still has “mixed feelings” about about his decision to go with Yusef that day, he does know one thing: As the oldest boy in the group — and the only one to be tried and sentenced as an adult — his experience in court and in prison was different from that of the other four.
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“When I first sat with [Korey], he said, ‘Ava, you can tell my story, but you need to know right now I feel that it’s four plus one. Because at least they were together, and I was alone,’” Ava explained.

Actor Jharrel Jerome plays a young Korey Wise in When They See Us on Netflix.

[SIZE=6]The other men didn’t realize how bad things were for Korey until they watched the series.[/SIZE]
The five men are still in communication: Antron and Raymond revealed they live five minutes away from each other; Yusef said he’ll “forever” have Korey’s back. But they don’t really talk about their individual experiences during their trial and incarceration — which is why watching episode 4 of When They See Us, which centers around Korey’s time in prison, was especially moving for them.
“Here [Korey] was, he wasn’t even a suspect. And he goes down, and he becomes the absolute thing that freed us,” Yusef said, referring to the fact that Korey met Matias Reyes in prison, which ultimately led Matias to confess to being the lone attacker in the Central Park Jogger rape.
[SIZE=6]Korey toured Harlem with Jharrel Jerome during filming, and even bought him shoes.[/SIZE]
Actor Jharrel Jerome played Korey Wise as both a teen and an adult in When They See Us. And to prepare for the role, he worked closely with Korey himself.
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Actor Jharrel Jerome sits with Korey Wise on the set of Netflix’s When They See Us.
“I spent a lot of time with him walking in the streets of Harlem,” Jharrel revealed. “He bought me a pair of sneakers the first time we hung out. I was like, ‘Don’t buy me these kicks.’ He was like, ‘I have to. I’m Korey Wise. Korey Wise buys Korey Wise sneakers.’”
[SIZE=6]Some of the other young actors hadn’t even heard of the case before their auditions.[/SIZE]
Both Ethan Herisse and Caleel Harris, who play young Raymond and young Antron in When They See Us, admitted to Oprah that they had never heard of the 1989 Central Park Jogger case — and the resulting wrongful incarcerations of the Central Park Five — prior to working on the Netflix series. They did research the case and learn about it before auditioning, however.
[SIZE=6]Antron has never forgiven his father for pushing him to falsely confess.[/SIZE]
[INDENT]I couldn’t imagine doing that to my son.[/INDENT]
Perhaps the most emotional moment during Oprah’s interview with the five men was when she asked Antron if he’s ever forgiven his father, Bobby McCray, for pushing him to falsely confess in the Central Park Jogger case: “Like I’ve said before, he’s a coward,” Antron answered, holding back tears. “I have six kids. Four boys, two girls. I couldn’t imagine doing that to my son.”
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Antron later added that he’s told his sons that, if they’re ever taken in by the police, they’re to wait until he gets there before talking.
Actor Caleel Harris plays a young Antron McCray in Netflix’s When They See Us.
[SIZE=6]Yusef thought Matias’s confession wouldn’t make a difference in their charges.[/SIZE]
Even today, Korey, Raymond, Antron, Kevin, and Yusef all still remember where they were when they got the call that Matias Reyes had confessed to being the lone attacker in the Central Park Jogger rape. But Yusef admits that, at first, he wasn’t sure that the confession would be enough to exonerate them.
“I had this weird thought: ‘They’re going to make this into the sixth man,’” he told Oprah. “And they’re going to somehow bury this.”
[SIZE=6]Ava isn’t surprised by former prosecutor Linda Fairstein’s response to the series.[/SIZE]
Since the release of When They See Us, Linda Fairstein, the supervising prosecutor in the Central Park Jogger case and former head of the Manhattan District Attorney’s sex crimes unit, has been hit with some major backlash. In the wake of it all, she’s stepped down from various positions and been dropped by her book publisher — but she’s also been very vocal about her feelings about the series, going so far as to call it an “outright fabrication” in a recent opinion piecepublished in the Wall Street Journal.
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During the interview with Oprah, Ava revealed this isn’t surprising to her: “I think it’s expected,” she said. “I think it’s important that people be held accountable … But I think it would be a tragedy if this story and the telling of it came down to one woman being punished for what she did, because it’s not about her.”
Linda Fairstein was the head of the sex crimes unit at the Manhattan District Attorney’s office when the Central Park Jogger was found in 1989.
[SIZE=6]The five men believe Linda is partially to blame for what happened to them — but she’s not the only one.[/SIZE]
When Oprah asked the so-called “Central Park Five” if they blame Linda for their wrongful incarceration, they were quick to nod and respond with a “Yes.” But they know she isn’t the only one who should be held responsible, either.
“I believe she was one of many,” Kevin Richardson said. “I think she was the culprit of it because people was going by what she said. She was basically telling them what to do, and they abided by it … But there’s still many more that need to be exposed.”
[SIZE=6]Ava says “nothing can beat” Korey’s reaction to the series.[/SIZE]
“There’s nothing else that can beat the moment when Korey Wise stands up after you see episode 4,” Ava said to Oprah. “I was sitting right behind him. He stood up. I was terrified. I didn’t know what he was going to say. And he had tears in his eyes and he said, ‘You did it. You got it right.’ And he embraced me.”
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Oprah embraces Korey Wise during the taping of OWN and Netflix special Oprah Winfrey Presents: When They See Us Now.

Here is a skeptical review from a black dude who grew up in NYC, not the sharpest tool in the box, but he gives a different perspective


The real culprit who 'fessed up to the crime. Got this from Murderpedia. Crime blogs call this guy the East Side Slasher, very violent serial rapist and killer. Doing 33 to life. However he wasnt charged with the case of the Central Park jogger because of the statute of limitations



Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: [B]Juvenile /B - Serial rapist
Number of victims: 1 - 2
Date of murders: 1988 / April 19, 1989
Date of arrest: August 5, 1989
Date of birth: 1971
Victims profile: 24-year-old pregnant woman / Trisha Meili, the “Central Park Jogger”
Method of murder: ??? / Beating with a rock
Location: New York, USA
Status: Sentenced to 33 1/3 years to life on November 1, 1991

Matias Reyes (b. c. 1971) is a serial rapist and murderer who, while serving a lifetime prison sentence for other crimes, confessed to the rape and nearly fatal assault of Trisha Meili, the “Central Park Jogger” on April 19, 1989.
On August 5, 1989, Reyes raped a woman who escaped and ran for help. He was arrested at that time and later confessed to an earlier rape and murder of a pregnant mother of 3 whose three children huddled in the next room during the attack. Other living victims identified him as a rapist. In a plea bargain he was given a sentence of 33 1/3 years to life.
In the assault on Meili, six youths under 18 were convicted of that crime in 1990, based in part upon confessions in which they implicated each other. At the trial they argued the confessions were coerced or improperly obtained.
Reyes confessed to the crime in May 2002, their convictions were vacated in December that year. DNA evidence confirmed that Reyes raped Meili but could not confirm that he acted alone as he claimed.

Central Park Rape Convictions Tossed
Five Men Cleared After DNA Implicates Another Man For 1989 Attack
By Dan Collins - CBS News
Dec. 19, 2002
Thirteen years after the brutal rape and beating of a Central Park jogger, a judge on Thursday dismissed the convictions of all five men who served prison time for the attack.
State Justice Charles Tejada, moving more quickly than defense lawyers and prosecutors had expected, dismissed all indictments against the five less than a week before Christmas. His ruling wasn’t expected until Jan. 6.
The decision to dismiss the indictments means prosecutors would have to start from scratch with a grand jury to retry the five.
Tejeda’s decision came after lawyers from the police detectives’ union unsuccessfully tried to block his ruling. The Detectives’ Endowment Association wanted an evidentiary hearing first, said attorney Philip Karsyk.
The primary evidence in the case had been confessions made to detectives.
Supporters of the accused have said those statements were coerced. The five black and Hispanic youths were between the ages of 14 and 16 when they were arrested in connection with the April 19, 1989 attack on the white investment banker.
No forensic evidence linked any of them to the crime scene.
The five, now ages 28 to 30, completed prison sentences ranging from 5 1/2 years to 13 years on their convictions.
Tejeda’s decision came two weeks after Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau recommended dropping all the convictions in the case.
Morgenthau’s recommendation came 11 months after a convicted rapist, who had never before been under suspicion, confessed and said he acted alone in committing the crime that had been blamed on a gang of “wilding” youths. DNA evidence backed his claim.
Tejeda’s ruling opens the door to civil suits against the city and frees the men, now in their late 20s, from having to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.
The 28-year-old victim was left for dead in a pool of mud and blood after the attack on April 19, 1989. Now 41, she has said she has no memory of what happened, preventing her from helping identify any suspects.
The woman lost three-quarters of her blood, and her body temperature dipped into the 80s. She was bruised from head to toe; on a scale of 3 to 15 used by neurologists to measure brain function, she was rated a 4. She spent 12 days in a coma.
The case remains an infamous benchmark in city history. The jogger was assaulted as dozens of teenagers descended on Central Park that night to mug runners and bicyclists — a crime spree dubbed “wilding.” That the attack happened in Manhattan’s bucolic oasis and was so random in nature terrified many New Yorkers in an era when the city’s crime rate was soaring.
Defense attorneys said the youths, all from Harlem, were coerced into bogus confessions by police. But until January’s confession, there seemed to be little chance of overturning the convictions against Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise and Yusef Salaam.
The confession came from Matias Reyes, 31, who is currently serving a life sentence for raping three women near Central Park and for raping and killing a pregnant woman. He said he broke his long silence after finding religion.
Reyes told investigators he raped the jogger, crushed her skull with a rock and left her for dead. He also said he followed his usual pattern of acting alone.
Test results returned in May confirmed Reyes’ DNA matched semen collected from the jogger’s body. The same tests failed to link the five youths to the savage crime scene.
The former prosecutor in the case, Linda Fairstein, recently said she has no doubts the five are guilty and that Reyes merely finished the assault.
The case involving minority defendants and a white victim dominated headlines and stoked racial tensions. Developer Donald Trump took out newspaper ads saying the attack was worthy of the death penalty.
Investigators said blond hair found on one of the youths matched that of the victim. But there was no match on semen samples, or other compelling physical evidence.
The men were convicted anyway in 1990 after jurors watched their videotaped confessions. “We all took turns getting on top of her,” McCray, then 15, told police in one tape.
The defense insisted those confessions were forced out of the youths by police who kept them under questioning for hours.
Over the past year, the defense had said Reyes’ confession, along with police knowledge that he had attacked another woman in the park two days earlier, were sufficient to nullify the rape convictions. However, news reports suggested that police wanted to stand by the youths’ convictions on other charges.
Police and prosecutors questioned Reyes’ story, saying there was no guarantee the convicted rapist was telling the truth about the attack.
The jogger, an employee of Salomon Bros., has since made an amazing recovery, lives in a Connecticut suburb and works for a nonprofit organization. She has been married for five years, and reportedly has a book due out in April.

Central Park Revisited
Thirteen years ago, the Central Park jogger case gave callous new faces to New York’s social breakdown and began to usher in the Giuliani era. Now a new confession has reopened old racial scars and raised questions about how police do their work.
By Chris Smith - NYmag.com
He wiped her blood off his hands and went home. Left behind, in a shallow ravine near Central Park’s 102nd Street transverse, was the brutalized body of a 28-year-old woman. Matias Reyes says he had raped and beaten her so viciously that he assumed she would die. The curly-haired 17-year-old boy calmly strolled north, into the night.
Thirteen years later, Reyes returns to the scene of the crime. This time he is in handcuffs, after a six-hour drive from the cell in a state prison near the Canadian border where he’s serving 331⁄3 to life after pleading guilty, in 1991, to four rapes and the murder of a pregnant woman. For this visit to the 102nd Street transverse, on a spring day in 2002, Reyes is accompanied by investigators from the Manhattan district attorney’s office. They want to test the claim that Reyes waited until this year to make: that on the night of April 19, 1989, he and he alone attacked the woman who became known around the world as the Central Park jogger.
His first appearance at this spot triggered events that nearly consumed the city. Now the return of Matias Reyes is roiling dozens of lives all over again.
Five teenagers were convicted of the attack on the Central Park jogger, in two stormy trials. All pleaded not guilty and claimed that their videotaped confessions were concocted by the cops. Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, and Kharey Wise served sentences ranging from five to thirteen years. Wise got out of prison August 12 – just months after the only DNA collected at the crime scene, which was never tied to any of the accused, was matched to Reyes.
In August, lawyers for the five petitioned to have the convictions dismissed, saying that new evidence – Reyes’s confession and his DNA – had surfaced that could have substantially altered the original verdicts. The D.A.'s office has been reinvestigating the Central Park case for nine months – but on October 21, Robert Morgenthau’s office will be back in State Supreme Court asking for a 30-day extension. Reyes has now been linked to eight rapes in a seven-month period, including one in Central Park on April 17, two days before the infamous jogger attack.
No matter what Judge Charles Tejada ultimately decides, the case has already had multiple, dramatic consequences: most tragically for the jogger, who nearly died. After years of rehabilitation, she still suffers from impaired vision and sketchy balance. Her emotional trauma is unquantifiable. And five anguished families watched their sons disappear into prison.
The case also changed the city itself. Bigger trends – the crack plague, the economic bust and then boom – played dominant roles in the story of the nineties. But the symbolism of the Central Park case altered everything from two mayoral elections to the reaction when a knot of teenage boys appeared on a dimly-lit sidewalk.
Now the case returns, uncannily, as anxieties about crime, civil rights, and the economy revive – and as part of a revolution sweeping the criminal-justice system, courtesy of DNA testing and a new concern about false confessions.

[CENTER]New York in the spring of 1989 was a city of jangling nerves and rising fears. Crack was blighting whole families and neighborhoods. Violent-crime rates were rising for the third straight year, and homicides would set a record. On Wall Street, the mergers-and-acquisitions bubble was giving way to corporate scandals. A new buzzword, underclass, was emerging as the label for the seemingly intractable urban pathology spawned by poverty.
Race relations framed many of the media’s big stories. The Reverend Al Sharpton was still loudly proclaiming that Tawana Brawley told the truth. Three white men convicted of chasing a 23-year-old black man, Michael Griffith, to his death on the Belt Parkway were beginning a contentious appeal.
And 1989 was a mayoral-election year. Ed Koch’s shrillness was a central issue in a tight Democratic-primary campaign. His strongest rival, Manhattan borough president David Dinkins, was, not coincidentally, a black man with an anodyne personality. Racial tensions worsened in August, when 16-year-old Yusef Hawkins, a black kid lost in Bensonhurst, was attacked by racist white thugs, shot, and killed.
Beneath these volatile events churned the Central Park jogger case. The victim was white and middle-class and female, a promising young investment banker at Salomon Brothers with a Wellesley–Yale–Phi Beta Kappa pedigree. The suspects were black and Latino and male and much younger, some with dubious school records, some from fractured homes, all from Harlem. That the crime took place in Central Park, mythologized as the city’s verdant, democratic refuge, played right into the theme of middle-class violation.
Almost from the moment the jogger was found, the Central Park case has existed as a vehicle for clashing worldviews: that held by the older, white, traditional-family-structure New York and that of the newer, nonwhite, poorer, marginalized New York. The furious reaction to the arrests and the trials illustrated how stark that cultural divide had become. And though the current legal breakthrough in the jogger case comes from the advent of cold, scientific DNA testing, the war for perceptions remains trapped in opposing views of the police: faith or mistrust.
Mike Sheehan, 54, one of the key detectives in the Central Park case, comes out of the city’s tradition of street-savvy Irish cops. Michael Warren, 58, the lawyer who is trying to vindicate McCray, Richardson, and Santana, comes out of the sixties tradition of black radicalism. Both men, and the camps they represent, are tenacious in defending their sense of emotional innocence. “All this stuff about coercion really pisses me off,” Sheehan says. “Do you honestly think that we – detectives with more than twenty years in, family men with pensions – would risk all of that so we could put words in the mouth of a 15-year-old kid? Absolutely not.”
“Oh, the police are lying,” Warren says. “Absolutely. I’ve spoken to the parents, I’ve spoken to our clients, and I’ve seen the effect on them when they begin to tell the story of what was done to them during the interrogations: They break down. So I don’t have any question as to their version of what took place.”
Unfortunately, for everyone else, the hardest thing to come by in this case has always been absolutes.
On Wednesday, April 19, 1989, at about 9 p.m., reports began filtering into the Central Park precinct that a marauding gang of youths was beating up joggers and bicyclists. The initial response was haphazard. Jogger David Good approached an officer on a scooter to say he’d been attacked; the cop rode off in the opposite direction. Patrol cars were dispatched around 9:30, responding to assault and robbery calls. Near 10 p.m., at the northern edge of the reservoir, jogger John Loughlin was bludgeoned in the back of the head, apparently with a pipe. At roughly 10:30, at 100th Street and Central Park West, two cops grabbed five boys, including Richardson and Santana.
The first interviews were conducted inside the tiny Central Park station house; Santana contributed many of the 33 names on a list of kids said to be in the park that night. It wasn’t until 1:30 a.m. that two construction workers, walking through the park after having a couple of beers, heard moaning and discovered a woman writhing in a ravine. The jogger, her skull smashed so badly that nearly 80 percent of her blood seeped onto the ground, had lain helpless for nearly four hours.
Later that morning, Linda Fairstein got a call. The head of the Manhattan D.A.'s Sex Crimes unit learned that her superior, Nancy Ryan, then the assistant district attorney for homicide cases, was taking control of the investigation with Ryan’s top aide, Peter Casolaro, because the jogger was thought likely to die. Fairstein went over Ryan’s head, to District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, arguing that the jogger was definitely the victim of a sex crime and if she lived would need a compassionate prosecutor. Fairstein won the turf skirmish. Soon, her best prosecutor, Elizabeth Lederer, was preparing to make videotapes.

[CENTER]The lowlights saturated the news. McCray: “We charged her. We got her on the ground. Everybody started hitting her and stuff. She was on the ground. Everybody stompin’ and everything. Then we got, each – I grabbed one arm, some other kid grabbed one arm, and we grabbed her legs and stuff. The we all took turns getting on her, getting on top of her.”
Richardson: “Raymond had her arms, and Steve [Lopez] had her legs. He spread it out. And Antron got on top, took her panties off.”
Santana: “He was smackin’ her, he was sayin’, ‘Shut up, bitch!’ Just smackin’ her . . . I was grabbin’ the lady’s tits.”
Wise: “This is my first rape.”
As they confessed, the boys spoke in matter-of-fact cadences. McCray at times seemed embarrassed, Santana defiant, and all of them looked tired – videotaping began on April 21, after most of the suspects had been awake for nearly two days. But none appeared apologetic or upset.
As inflammatory as some of the videotaped statements were, a few off-camera quotes also incited fury. Police officials told reporters that the boys had coined a new term, wilding, to describe beating up random victims, and that while in a holding cell the suspects had laughed and sung the rap hit “Wild Thing.” Another law-enforcement leak had Salaam explaining why the boys had gone on their spree: “It was fun,” Salaam was said to have said.
The tabloids and TV news were predictably sensationalistic. But a presumption of guilt infected coverage everywhere: “A 28-year-old investment banker, jogging through Central Park, was attacked by a group of teenagers. They kicked and beat her in the head with a pipe and raped her. The teenagers, who were from East Harlem, were quickly arrested.” That’s from the Times, and it appeared on May 29, a little more than one month after the five were indicted.
Beyond the initial shocking impact, the confessions grew in importance as forensic evidence failed to materialize. No blood or DNA tests tied the five to the jogger. Hairs found on Richardson’s clothes were said to be “consistent” with those of the jogger, but it was precious little residue considering that five people were accused of beating and raping a woman in a muddy ravine.
The videotapes also showed rampant inconsistencies in the boys’ accounts of the evening in the park. During deliberations, jurors, especially those who discounted the confessions, tried to fill in the troubling lack of physical evidence. In the second trial, juror Ivette Naftal picked up Kevin Richardson’s underpants and showed the other jurors what she said were grass and mud stains – therefore, Richardson must have pulled his pants down and raped the jogger. Incredibly, the prosecutors had never tested the stains, so their origin remains a mystery. But Naftal’s argument swayed enough jurors to convict Richardson of sexual assault.
In the two trials, Lederer, the prosecutor, did a skillful job of weaving the jogger attack into the series of random acts of violence committed by packs of 30 to 40 youths that night. Yet that broader picture – which prosecution sources still emphasize is crucial to the guilt of the five in the jogger attack – has a large flaw. None of the seven other joggers and bicyclists who testified about other incidents was ever able to identify McCray, Richardson, Salaam, Santana, or Wise.
The majority of jurors, however, kept coming back to what they saw as a common-sense analysis: How could four of the five teens, with adult relatives by their sides, give richly detailed statements incriminating themselves in a horrific act that they simply didn’t commit? (Wise, 16, was unaccompanied; Salaam wasn’t videotaped.) And the majority of jurors eventually won the debate – though not completely through the weight of logic. Tim Sullivan, who had extensive access to the Central Park jurors for his book Unequal Verdicts, quotes one juror as disregarding the legal instructions of trial judge Thomas Galligan. “There’s always that danger, that jurors will try to come up with something, because at some point they feel like prisoners,” says Sullivan, now a producer at Court TV. “If a jury is in there for ten or twelve days, as these were, people start looking for a way to get out.”
Meanwhile, on August 5, 1989, a rape victim managed to run out her apartment door screaming when her attacker went into the kitchen searching for a knife with which to blind her. When the rapist ran down to the lobby in pursuit, the building super whacked Matias Reyes with a mop and held him until police arrived.

[CENTER]The detective who took Reyes’s statement inside the 20th Precinct that day was Mike Sheehan. “In 25 years on the job, I took over 1,000 confessions, in 3,000 homicides,” Sheehan says now. “Out of all the bad guys I’ve talked to across the table, this is one of the top five lunatics. This guy was a frightening guy. He was capable of doing anything. He’s very manipulative.”
Sheehan, who became famous during the Robert Chambers case and is now a reporter for Fox-5, grew up in East Harlem when it had a sizable Italian and Irish population. Even Sheehan’s lunch is old-school: Today at Bill’s Gay Nineties in midtown, he orders a burger with a slice of raw onion and Worcestershire sauce, and washes it down with two beers.
In the summer of 1989, a serial rapist was terrorizing women on the Upper East Side; connecting the assaults were the rapist’s attempts to stab out the eyes of his victims so he couldn’t be identified. Sheehan, a legendary detective with Manhattan North Homicide, got involved in June after the second victim, Lourdes Gonzalez, 24, was stabbed to death – while her three young children watched. Detectives from the Sex Crimes unit took down Reyes’s confession to three rapes, but he denied having anything to do with the rape and murder of Lourdes Gonzalez.
Sheehan spent six hours getting to know Reyes. The detective described how they shared roots in East Harlem. Pretty soon, Reyes was calling him Mikey. Sheehan further bonded with Reyes over an unhappy similarity. “Nobody does rape for the sex,” Sheehan says. "It’s a crime of violence. They’re lashing out. A lot because they were victims of some kind of sexual abuse. I said to Reyes, ‘We’re all guys in this room. Nobody is gonna embarrass anybody. I guarantee you that something really bad happened to you as a kid.’ He starts looking down. I say, ‘I know, because something really bad happened to me as a kid.’ ‘To you?’ he says. I tell him, ‘I wasn’t always this size, I wasn’t always a detective. A lot of crazy stuff happens in this city. I’ll tell you what happened – and I’ll even go first, and then you tell me what happened to you. Is that fair? Something did happen to you, right?’ He says, ‘Maybe.’ "
Sheehan, a master empathizer, told Reyes how, at the age of 12, he needed to use a subway bathroom and was cornered by a pervert. “All of a sudden,” Sheehan says, “Reyes’s whole face is getting red, he’s squinting, he’s digging his fingers into the table.” When it came time for Reyes to describe his own shame, Sheehan reassured him and at the same time cracked Reyes’s resistance. “I said, ‘I’m not gonna run out on the street and tell people Matias Reyes got raped. Maybe it was even a relative.’ The guy went wild, cursing. Now he’s totally discombobulated.” From there, it was a short trip to Reyes’s admission that he killed Lourdes Gonzalez.
Reyes gave no hint he had anything to do with the Central Park jogger attack. “This was not a guy to have sex as part of a group of people,” Sheehan says, trying to explain why he didn’t think to ask Reyes about the Central Park jogger. “Totally different M.O. This guy was a hostage taker. He wanted total control, by himself. And as he told me, describing what he did with Lourdes Gonzalez, ‘We made love.’ Not like ‘I fucked her.’ It was ‘I made love. In the sleeping room.’ The park was not his thing. Obviously, now we know he was there. But there was no reason to suspect him in that case at all.”
In Sheehan’s account of the Central Park interrogations, the police officers never raised their voices, let alone their fists. The detectives were so concerned with proper procedure, Sheehan says, that they moved the suspects from the 20th to the 24th Precinct so that they would be videotaped according to regulations, in a designated “youth room.” Coercion? Just the opposite, Sheehan says: When Santana spontaneously started describing the attack on the jogger, Sheehan says he told the boy to wait until Raymond Santana Sr. arrived.
Detective Tom McKenna was more active. The 21-year veteran falsely told Yusef Salaam that fingerprints had been found on the jogger’s clothes. "Salaam looks at me and says, ‘I was there, but I didn’t rape her,’ " McKenna recalls. “We are allowed, by law, to use guile and ruse, and we do. People only give things up when you tell 'em you got 'em. But to frame somebody and leave the right son-of-a-bitch out in the street? I’m irate anyone would infer that.”
Nor has Sheehan lost any sleep over the convictions. “I used to lie awake at night thinking about cases we had over the years: I hope to God we have the right guy,” he says. “That’s your biggest fear: You never want to put an innocent person in jail. Mother of God! I didn’t worry much on this one. Because they’re telling us where they were. They are telling us – the sequence may be off, but they’re essentially telling us the same stuff. They remember a guy they beat and took his food, they remember hitting this guy running around the reservoir. They went through all of these things, each kid. And they also tell you about the jogger. And they place people, so you have a mental picture of where they were around this woman’s body. And their parents are with them, not only in the interviews but in the videotape, for the record. That’s enough for me. I’m satisfied.”

[CENTER]Three of the Central Park defendants lived in Schomburg Plaza, an apartment complex at 110th Street and Fifth Avenue. Bill Perkins was president of the Schomburg tenants’ association then, and since 1997 he’s been a city councilman. Perkins has remained close to the families, and when he read of Reyes’s confession in June – Reyes says a religious awakening prompted him to come forward; the statute of limitations on the jogger case had expired – Perkins consulted with the families, then called his old friend Michael Warren. Warren enlisted as co-counsel Roger Wareham, 53, a leader in the slavery-reparations movement.
This summer, Warren and Wareham sent a private investigator, Earl Rawlins, upstate to interview Reyes. Rawlins returned with detailed written and audiotaped revelations that form the backbone of the motion to dismiss the Central Park convictions (Yusef Salaam and Kharey Wise are represented by two other attorneys who’ve filed parallel actions). But Warren isn’t resting on Reyes’s confession. He knows that the D.A.'s office could argue that it has acknowledged all along that some of the jogger’s attackers escaped, and that finding Reyes’s semen on the jogger’s sock doesn’t invalidate the videotaped confessions. So Warren is reviving the old doubts about the validity of the confessions. “To the extent that the parents were present at that time, it’s really insignificant in terms of trying to assert that the parents voluntarily knew what was going on and agreed to it,” Warren says. “That’s just not the case. And the videotaping is the last stage of this process. At that point, the children will say whatever they’ve been scripted to say.”
He’s also trying to punch new holes in the original police investigations. “We know that Mike Sheehan had to be aware that there was an unidentified DNA sample,” Warren says. “And we know that he, along with a couple of other detectives, suggested or requested that Reyes’s DNA be compared to four cases that Reyes admitted to. And there was a match. All these things should have triggered his concern that ‘hey, maybe we should attempt to try to get a match on this specimen in the Central Park case.’ He didn’t do it. It’s more than laziness. They had a nice clean ribbon that they had tied around all five boys. And they didn’t want to interfere with that.”

[CENTER]Sheehan says he knew nothing of the Central Park DNA until the first trial, in June 1990. Even if he did, why would Sheehan avoid implicating a possible sixth jogger assailant? “Why didn’t they do it in the Scottsboro case?” Warren says. “For the same reason: Convicting these boys was the easiest route to take.”
Warren’s other clients have included Amadou Diallo’s family; Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman; El Sayyid Nosair, the assassin of Jewish extremist Meir Kahane; and Tupac Shakur, when he was charged with sexual abuse. “The thread is injustice, whether it be in the criminal sphere or the civil sphere, involving wrongful conduct by the police,” he says. “I come out of a movement that’s involved in addressing injustices.” As a college student, Warren was expelled for allegedly threatening a college president during a union-organizing rally, but he was reinstated the following spring thanks to William Kunstler, who filed suit on Warren’s behalf. “We molded a friendship,” Warren says. “Little did I know that I would be trying cases with Bill later on.”
These days, Warren works out of a tidy office on the ground floor of the Clinton Hill brownstone he shares with his wife. A painting of Che Guevara looks down on Warren’s desk. In the current reinvestigation, Warren is confident that he has the facts and the law on his side. The internal politics of the D.A.‘s office could also work in his clients’ favor: Nancy Ryan and Peter Casolaro, who were elbowed aside by Linda Fairstein thirteen years ago, are supervising the review.
Even if his clients are exonerated, though, the story won’t be over. “Oh, no,” Warren says, flashing a smile. “People were put through pain, and there’s got to be a payment. What’s important to us now is to alleviate the present pain they’re going through, to some extent. Where we go from there, we haven’t spent much time talking about that. But we’re quite aware that there are other remedies.”

[CENTER]In a perfect world, the D.A.'s office would have tested Reyes’s and every other rapist’s DNA against that found on the Central Park jogger’s sock. But beyond the practical problems – no DNA data bank existed in 1989; detectives were plenty busy – such open-ended hunting would have gone against ingrained NYPD culture. Detectives consider a case closed when “good” arrests are made.
Indirectly, however, the mind-set that shaped the Central Park and Reyes investigations led to one of the crucial improvements in the nineties NYPD. When Bill Bratton arrived as police commissioner, he promoted an eccentric, brilliant transit detective named Jack Maple to become his chief strategist. Maple, who died in 2001, became justly famous for Compstat, a system of mapping crimes – first with pushpins, then with computers. Maple got less publicity for an equally important change. He pushed for cops to question suspects for leads on any and all other crimes. Good cops already did this, but Maple made it a priority. Sheehan might never have gotten Reyes to implicate himself in the Central Park attack, even following Maple’s principles. But he might not have been satisfied with tying Reyes to the Lourdes Gonzalez murder.
Changing police culture is very much on the minds of Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck. Two weeks ago, Neufeld flew from New York to Billings, Montana, to welcome Jimmy Ray Bromgard back to freedom. In 1987, Bromgard was found guilty of raping an 8-year-old girl. In late September, Bromgard became the 111th wrongfully convicted person to be cleared by DNA testing, two thirds of them by Neufeld and Scheck.
“A guy in California just got out, and there will be two more guys next week in Savannah,” Scheck says, staring into the distance and trying to do the math in his head. “And soon there will be five more in New York, right?”
Neufeld and Scheck launched the Innocence Project in 1992. Right now their mostly volunteer law-student staff is scrambling to file petitions on behalf of thousands of Florida inmates who’ve been granted a brief window of time for DNA reviews. The second chance came after a death-row inmate named Frank Lee Smith died awaiting a DNA test that would have cleared him.
But the Innocence Project’s agenda is far broader than applying DNA testing to old cases. “Twenty-three percent of the post-conviction DNA exonerations involve false confessions or admissions,” Scheck says over a glass of red wine in a bar around the corner from his prodigiously messy Greenwich Village office. “And that’s just after conviction. There are thousands of cases where people have been exonerated by DNA after they were arrested but before they were convicted. Many of those cases involve false confessions. The DNA work has pointed clearly and dramatically to this problem of false confessions.”
The Innocence Project’s solution is to videotape all conversations between police and suspects who are in custody, and Bill Perkins has introduced a City Council bill. “It’s a bad idea,” a city prosecutor says. “There’s so much give and take between detectives and suspects. The smart guys get them something to eat, they talk to them, they schmooze them. You’d be looking at videos that last for hours and hours.” There is also the philosophical question of how much a general public that wants to see bad guys locked up is prepared to know about what happens in an interrogation.
Already, though, Scheck and Neufeld have helped make New York’s courts more accurate than most. In 1994, they lobbied Governor Mario Cuomo to create a state Forensic Science Review Board that would certify and regulate all crime labs. Then they nudged the city to spend $33 million to upgrade its crime lab in Queens. “Now New York leads the country in trying to run down cold cases with DNA,” Scheck says.
During the first Central Park trial, Scheck advised defense lawyer Mickey Joseph, who represented Antron McCray. “The next time I heard about this case was in June, when I was called by a reporter for the Times, who told me that we, the Innocence Project, had received a letter from Matias Reyes,” Scheck says. “Except that we hadn’t. Oddly enough, he had written to Lynne Stewart and asked her to send the letter on to us.” Since then the duo has been consulting with Warren and Wareham and prodding the process forward.
“It would be a terrible shame if this whole reexamination did not result in doing something to prevent false confessions,” Scheck says. “The Central Park case has all the earmarks we’ve seen in our other cases of false confessions. And in all these cases, we find that the real assailant committed many crimes.”

[CENTER]Matias Reyes was born in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, and spent most of his early years there with his father while his mother lived in New York. At 7, Reyes told a psychologist hired by his defense lawyer, his life took a dark turn: He was sexually abused by two male strangers. “Given what Reyes did later on in life, this fits the pattern,” says his former lawyer Richard Siracusa. “Then he came to live with his mother in New York. There was a little problem when he was 15 or 16.”
Siracusa knows depravity; in practice for 28 years, he’s represented serial killers. But the lawyer pauses before continuing: “He and a friend sexually abused Reyes’s mother.” Reyes returned to his father’s house. His mother moved out of state. “He comes back from Puerto Rico after a couple of years, when he’s about 17,” Siracusa says. “I don’t think he ever saw the mother again. He lives over a grocery store, by himself. Then he decided to become a serial rapist.”
Until then, Reyes was a muscular but unimposing five-foot-seven-inch anonymous young man, a ninth-grade dropout stocking shelves in a bodega beneath his apartment on Third Avenue at 103rd Street. Reyes told a psychologist hired by Siracusa that he snorted cocaine daily but that “I always say no to violence.”
On November 1, 1991, Reyes appeared in court for sentencing. When it was his turn to speak, Reyes began by calling Judge Thomas Galligan – the same man who’d presided over the Central Park trials – a “motherfucker,” then yelled, “I didn’t kill anybody. I’m tired of this shit. The attorneys this court give me don’t do nothing for me.” Reyes wheeled and punched Siracusa in the head, knocking his lawyer to the ground. “He put a couple of court officers out for a few months – dislocated shoulder, a broken bone,” Siracusa says. “He was kicking and screaming the whole way out. I still remember that look on his face, a face out of your nightmares. He totally changed – it was like the devil. He’s a pure psychopath.”
Dr. N. G. Berrill, the psychologist hired by the defense, spent three days examining Reyes. “He was like a wounded child, a defective human being,” Berrill says now. “Not psychotic, but someone whose impulse control was poor. He’s manipulative. I wouldn’t put money on anything he says.”

[CENTER]Reyes made at least one trip through Central Park between the night he raped the jogger and his return this spring. In August 1989, he was arrested in the lobby of a building at Lexington and East 91st. From there, detectives drove him to the office of the Sex Crimes unit, inside the 20th Precinct on West 82nd. The police car crossed through Central Park. Sitting in the backseat, looking out the windows at the park on both sides of him, did Reyes worry that the cops would link him to the jogger case? Or did he think, They grabbed those other five suckers – at least I got away with one?Did the notion flicker through his warped mind that maybe he should take credit for the jogger attack, too?
He might have spared a whole city – and perhaps five particular teenagers – years of pain. But instead he kept his secret, because Matias Reyes had no conscience. What’s hardest to believe in this long and sad saga is that he’s grown one now.

Matias is escorted out of 20th precinct after being charged with murder and rape.[/CENTER]


The other interesting phenomenon in this case, is what was then called Wilding,Wolf Packing and nowadays Flash Mobs(used for group dancing also) which are rowdy groups of children some as young as 10, marauding streets and parks committing crimes and harassing people.

Around 10:20 on the evening of March 20, 2010, Anna Taylor, a 27-year-old waitress from Frenchtown, NJ, walked with her boyfriend west on South Street in Philadelphia toward the Tritone Bar. A black teenager passing them punched Anna in the face, knocking out a front tooth and its root and splitting her lip so it hung from her face. Later, the doctor at Hahnemann University Hospital used so many stitches to repair her lip that Taylor and her mother could not count them. Another teen hit Taylor’s boyfriend in the head a few times, but the group moved on before he sustained any injuries. The two boys were part of a flash mob, a spontaneous gathering of thousands of teens organized with social networks and text messages. The March 20 event was the fourth in a string of such gatherings starting in 2009 and continuing into 2011. The local and national media reported the gatherings extensively, in horrific terms.

“They had smiles on their faces as they scared people at random,” Assistant District Attorney Angel Flores told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “They thought that assaulting others was a form of enjoyment.”

Christine Flowers, in her column for the Philadelphia Daily News, wrote, “While there is no specific evidence that the little thugs roaming our streets are looking for white people to harass, the fact that the vast majority of the offenders are black and the vast majority (if not the totality) of the victims are white should give pause.” She quoted her “friend Jeffrey” in the same column as writing, “When your first motivation is to beat someone white, and taking their cell phone or shoulder bag is an afterthought, that is strong evidence these weren’t socio-economic crimes. These young savages weren’t out to steal, they were looking to create mayhem and ethnic intimidation.”

If Flowers took the time to read her paper’s sister publication, the Inquirer, she would have known that, according to the DA’s office, the flash mobbers “were not on the hunt for particular victims…although they trampled and punched people along the way – white, black, whomever – and damaged property.” Hate crime myth debunked.

The truth is scarier. Marques Carson, 17, a student at Mastery Charter School in South Philadelphia told the Inquirer, “I think it’s happening because these kids out there have nothing to do. It’s happening out of boredom. They want to hang out and have fun, by any means necessary.” The gatherings turn violent, Carson said, because of groupthink. “When you’re by yourself, you’re one person. When you’re with your friends you become another person. The peer pressure is on. . . . Too many kids are followers, not leaders.”

The boys that assaulted Anna Taylor and her boyfriend on March 20 were summoned to the scene by a text message.

Come to South Street. South Street is poppin.

Of course the public outrage ignores the rich, and much less widely reported, tradition of white mob violence in Philadelphia. “This is a city that breaks windows to express happiness when the Phillies win,” said University of Pennsylvania anthropologist, Philippe Bourgois. When your rioters wear expensive baseball jerseys, and sport white skin, the white folks on gentrified South Street don’t shake in their boots. But ask Woodbridge Police Officer Neal Auricchio if the danger is any different. In January 2012, Auricchio was beaten in front of Geno’s Steaks at South 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue for wearing a Rangers jersey after the Winter Classic at the Wells Fargo Center. Earlier this year a large group of mostly white Temple University undergraduates destroyed property and harassed pedestrians in the poor black neighborhood surrounding Temple’s North Philadelphia campus. The gathering was spontaneous, unrelated to a sporting event or protest. Media reports of this incident were muted compared with reports of the flash mobs involving black teenagers in Center City.

Still, the recent string of flash mobs recall a bit of the city’s zeitgeist from the 1980s and 1990s. Back then, groups of black youths destroying property and assaulting random people on the street were referred to as “wolf packs” and their actions were described as “wilding.”

In 1998, then-councilman Michael Nutter said, in response to sexual assaults at that’s years Greek Picnic, a gathering of black fraternities, “What would we be saying if males from the Ku Klux Klan or the Aryan Nations attacked, stripped, assaulted and violated black women? It’s not about what the white man did. It’s not about slavery or oppression. It’s about nothing. It’s about being ignorant and disrespectful.” As mayor, Nutter has taken the same tough approach in his public reaction to the flash mobs. But maybe Mayor Nutter is missing something. Maybe he’s not listening to kids like Marques Carson when they say violence happens because kids have nothing to do. The recession caused by the collapse of the financial sector in 2007 will, ironically, most hurt those furthest away from the gilded wood-paneled halls of Wall Street. Schools, libraries and recreation centers are closing in the poorest sections of the city. Many of the children of North and West Philadelphia’s ghettos – if they have nothing better to do, if they have no family support, no quality education, no prospects for the future – will commit crimes. No amount of Nutter’s forceful rhetoric of responsibility and self-determination will change that.

Then again, Nutter’s tough law-and-order policy seems quaint compared to the vitriol on the philly.com comment boards in reaction to the flash mobs.

“I’m getting a gun.”

“I actually hope I cross paths with a flash mob. I’m just going to start swinging at anyone I can hit, male or female.”

“These flash mob folks make it really hard not to be racist.”

“Well, if you are a CCW (concealed carry weapon) holder, this is a good reason to start packing with extended-capacity ammo magazines.”

And most disturbingly – “Paging Mr. Goetz, Mr. Bernie Goetz.”

In December of 1984, Goetz shot four black men on a New York City subway car. Goetz said the men demanded money from him and were making hand gestures indicating they had weapons. The men insisted they were panhandling. Having shot all four men, he looked at one, Darrell Cabey, and said, “You don’t look too bad, here’s another,” and shot Cabey again, severing his spinal cord and permanently paralyzing him.

The images are admittedly compelling and dramatic, so maybe it’s understandable that journalists do not go out of their way to encourage moderate reactions. But sometimes the victims of these crimes can be the most sensible about the public’s responsibility.

Just after 9:00 one Friday night in late July of 2011, a group of about two dozen twelve- and thirteen-year-old boys and girls beat Jeremy Schenkel, a 22-year-old building engineer, to the ground near the corner of 15th and Sansom Streets. The teens broke Schenkel’s glasses and tried, unsuccessfully, to steal his briefcase. Schenkel was uninjured but the group went on that same night to the kick in the teeth of another person and beat a 54-year-old homeless man bloody and unconscious.

Remarkably, Schenkel, expressed sympathy for his attackers, saying, “The fact that eleven and twelve year old kids are participating in this kind of activity is sadder than anything else.” The mother of Anna Taylor, the waitress attacked in March of 2010, expressed a similar sentiment, “Our biggest concern is what direction Philadelphia’s children are getting. What is the world heading toward? My daughter will heal. She will repair in every way. But what will happen to these kids?”

The terms may have changed from the 80s and 90s to today. “Wolf packs” became “flash mobs” and kids started using technology to better organize their mischief. However, the response of the media, and therefore much of the public, to these urban crimes – and there’s no denying they are serious crimes – has remained much the same.

In her book The Central Park Five: The Chronicle of a City Wilding, Sarah Burns, daughter of the lauded PBS documentarian Rick Burns, tells the story of five teenage boys who, in 1989, became embroiled in a media and law enforcement firestorm surrounding the rape and brutal beating of a female jogger in Central Park. All five of the boys were African-American or Latino and four of them were under sixteen years of age. The jogger, a twenty-something white executive at a financial firm, was assaulted so ferociously that she nearly bled to death in a wooded area of the park near the 102nd Cross Street Drive where she had been running. She recovered, but never regained any memory of the night of her attack. The five boys, who entered the park with a larger group on the night of the rape, participated in random acts of “wilding” – as it became known – scaring passersby on bicycles, beating a bum and mugging male joggers who ran along the Reservoir path, far south of where the female jogger was found. The boys who became known as the Central Park Five – Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Korey Wise, Yusef Salaam, and Raymond Santana, Jr. – were arrested when the male joggers reported the larger group’s activities to the Central Park Precinct. While they remained in detention, waiting for parents and guardians to show up for police interviews, the female jogger was found. Burns deftly combines studies of contemporaneous media reports, police documents and her own interviews to tell the dramatic story of how these five boys were essentially lynched by the justice system and the media and wrongly convicted for a heinous crime they did not commit.

The dystopia of late-80s New York City seems unreal, in retrospect. Burns’s conjuring of the zeitgeist is compelling, reminding us of the true inspiration for the sensationalist films of John Carpenter or vigilante video games like Renegade where the object was to beat up as many punks in the subway as possible (and the punks just kept coming and coming and coming). The Warriors and Escape from New York, we might forget, were stylized expressions of real fear and outrage engendered by, among other things, the media’s portrayal of “wilding” as a serious problem for public safety in the city.

McCray, Richardson, Wise, Salaam and Santana all confessed to being present at the rape of the jogger but, as Burns shows, the confusion produced by police in getting those confessions, particularly on the part of District Attorney Elizabeth Lederer, amounted to more than coercion and was, at times, blatant manipulation. The interrogators took advantage of the fact that none of the boys requested legal advocates be present at their interviews. They broke the law by telling the boys and their parents and guardians that they would be released from custody if they confessed. Many of the boys’ family members were intimidated by police and were removed from the interrogation rooms when the cops wanted to get rough with the suspects. Santana’s grandmother, who was present at his interrogation, was not fluent in English. A lazy press, and a prosecutor and detectives hungry for a quick conviction, ignored these issues as the case played out in the year following the rape.

However, Burns, like the media covering the Central Park Five case in 1989 and the early-90s, and the media covering the flash mobs in Philadelphia today, fails to ask the most important question concerning these groups of boys. There is no question they committed crimes that were much less serious than the rape, but still deplorable. They beat a helpless homeless man and left him bleeding in a patch of bushes beside East Drive and attacked four random joggers at the Reservoir. While Burns’s brief history of lynching and stereotypes about black men helps us understand the horrible tradition the mainstream media and public were acting in, in response to the rape, she never attempts to help us understand why the boys committed the serious crimes they did commit in the first place. The line between the public’s unfair perception of these boys and the crimes they committed might not be so far, though.

“What’s the matter, white boy, you scared?” and “All the white people are scared,” the youths who participated in the South Street flash mob were reported as saying. Whether the youths actually said these things or not – the attribution of all quotes in local media come from scared white people, after all – the sentiment might be revealing. These boys, and less often girls, could be acting out for a number of reasons, not least of which is the way the world views them. The Trayvon Martin case is not only important in informing our thoughts on gun control and real racial tensions, but also in the dangerousness of our own presuppositions concerning race, youth and violence. George Zimmerman is not so different from Bernhard Goetz, and the inaction of the media and the justice system remains the same as it was in 1989.

From the beginning of the trial of the Central Park Five, the boys were sacrificed by their distracted and incompetent defense attorneys, and Elizabeth Lederer, her fellow prosecutors, and Judge Galligan, all of whom were too stubborn and single-minded to see how the jogger’s case fit in with a string of unsolved rapes and assaults in Central Park and the Upper East Side. The jogger’s rape fit the MO of Mattias Reyes a psychopathic serial rapist known as the East Side Slasher. Reyes was brought to justice while the Five were still on trial, but the cases were never linked until Reyes confessed to the rape of the jogger years later. Still, the tabloid press, and to a lesser extent the mainstream press, resisted Reyes’s confession. They also resisted any evidence that might exonerate the Five while clinging foolhardily to the coerced confessions. But none of these observations could be made in the trial of the Central Park Five. The rhetoric surrounding the racial divide in the city in the late-80s and early-90s was so vitriolic that any expression of the racial aspects of the case hurt the defendants in the court of white opinion and justice. But justice is not only robbed from young black men in these types of cases. The old creed that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty does not hold for most interrogators. The complicity of the detectives in mischaracterizing the interrogations that elicited the boys’ confessions reveals a pervasive police corruption that might be rooted in a desire to put criminals behind bars, but which handicaps justice for everyone, especially the wrongfully accused.

“On June 20, Stephen Lyde pleaded guilty to assault in a random attack on a cyclist in Center City. In what was meant to send a message to those marauding youth bands who amuse themselves by attacking strangers in the street, Lyde was sentenced to five to 20 years,” the Philadelphia Daily News reported in the summer of 2011. Five teenage boys were robbed of their youths in New York for a high profile crime they did not commit; another young man in Philadelphia is sacrificing his for a random act of violence. How many other similar cases go unreported because the victims are not white? And when will we temper our public reaction with compassion and positive, restorative action?