The Central Park Five Revisited

Photo by Michael Nagle (website) (from left) of Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Kharey Wise at the premiere of a Ken Burns documentary on their case at the 2012 DocNYC Festival.


The serial  rapist finally confessed.  Crime scene DNA proved a perfect match. With their convictions vacated--the five Black and Latinos--Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Antron McCray--have yet to get any restitution from the City of New York which refuses to own up to what happened.  And many think they must have "gotten off" on a technicality, rather than serving full prison terms which robbed them of their childhoods.

In 1989 it seemed like everyone knew about the sensationalized  rape case of the Central Park jogger, but as Ken Burns points out, far, far  less attention was paid when the convictions of the five teenagers, based on what they say were coerced confessions,  proved to be a miscarriage of justice.

Tonight thanks to PBS we have the opportunity at 9 pm, not only to view archival footage, but to hear the five in new interviews--Richardson, Salaam, Santana and Wise speak on camera, while McCray participates in a voice-over, as per his wishes. We also get to hear from the late mayor, Ed Koch, although prosecutors and police refused to participate.  And, according to David Bianculli (email, website, twitter), the city demanded, unsuccessfully that the "filmmakers release outtakes of their interviews, as possible evidence in the ongoing civil trial brought by the former defendants." 

The Central Park Five--directed and produced by Ken Burns, David McMahon and Sarah Burns--is based on Sarah Burns earlier book,  The Central Park Five: A Chronicle of a City Wilding (240 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. 2011).  A paralegal at the firm which was mounting the 2003 suit, she convinced the five to let her tell their story.

Salaam, according to Sarah Burns, prior to the accusations,  had been accepted at LaGuardia High School of Music and Art, "a highly selective public school that requires the submission of an art portfolio for admission."  In 1997, when  he was released from prison at the age 23, as he explained to  Allison Samuels (twitter)
I remember going to a few publishing houses and talking to some people about writing a book about what happened to me,” he said. “But I was told my story wasn’t compelling. That was hard to hear.
After viewing the movie tonight, tomorrow you can participate in a New Times Talk with the filmmakers and the exonerated men tomorrow at 6:30 pm and ask questions via twitter.Afterwards the video will be available on Livestream.