The Central Park Five Reviews
Another thing this film portrays is how the police and district attorneys regarded these kids as guilty from the beginning before it even reached the newspapers. Then they became guilty in the eyes of the media, which then landed the final blow by creating the same guilty conclusion in the minds of much of the public. "The Crime of the Century" it was called. And in the end of it all, it turns out they were actually innocent. So I guess it was the crime of the century---just not one perpetrated by these kids, but instead the one perpetrated by the system.
The original case received so much media attention in 1989 that I think it was impossible to not hear something about it and this was the days before the internet and easy 24-hour access to news. Meanwhile, when a black woman was raped and thrown off of a roof in Brooklyn on the same day, it got very little attention. The racial implications in this Central Park jogger case were very disturbing and well elucidated in the film.
Taking 5 14-16 year old kids and coercing them into giving false statements of guilt just to close a case under pressure. It sadly also resulted in the actual guilty person to roam free and commit more rapes while these innocent kids were being convicted.
This is an incredibly sad tale and I had been wanting to see this film since it first came out in theaters. It brought back a lot of memories. It is tragic indeed and not something that should be forgotten, but unfortunately their exoneration got very little attention so most people from the time I'm sure have no idea of how this all turned out. I didn't even know until I heard of this film, which was 23 years later.
The film is an important film for that reason. It is the greatest public statement of the injustice that was carried out in a number of different ways by different criminal justice departments of our system. Legendary documentarian Ken Burns and his daughter Sara, as well as her husband, did an excellent job of bringing the social/political implications and ramifications to light with both heart and a commitment to factual rigor.
This film really should be watch by many more people, especially those of us from this time period. I conveniently saw it on netflix.
In addition, they dealt with the added persecution of a hysterical, lynch mob mentality across New York City (See - Donald Trump), which would surely break any normal person. To come out the other end, vindicated, yet ready to move on with their lives shows a depth of character we can all learn from. Nothing can give back what they lost, but compensation will go a long way to healing wounds.
I was just seven when the original crime happened. Years later, I ran across the victim's book. I tried to read it but it's a brutal crime and I lost interest. I think I still thought it was a group of black kids who did it. Now I know why.
Maybe these were no angels, maybe they were just rowdy kids in a very different New York City than the one we know today. But for police and prosecutors to do what they did...unacceptable. They not only cheated these five kids and their families, but also cheated the victim and all the subsequent victims of the real rapist. Fucking pathetic.
But to top it off, just like in other cases of wrongful conviction, there is no recourse. In this case, it seems particularly bad given the city will not settle with the five original defendants. And look at Fairstein's career. She has done more good than harm, but seriously, when you make a mistake, no matter the level, you better goddamn own up to it and try to fix it. What officials did in this case is just disgusting.