The Central Park Five Reviews
This film is of the quality and emotion that we've all come to know and love from Ken Burns, and I'd recommend it to anyone.
Another good effort by the Burn's family. Amazing how corrupt police and prosecutors can all but destroy lives for career advancement. It worked out in the end but not without lasting consequences for the accused.
This is nothing more, and nothing less, than a study of racial profiling, and how inherent it is in all of us, whether through the media or from the attitudes of our elders and peers. And, of course, the dire and tragic consequences of such attitudes.
It truly was an eye opener, and a film I think more people should see.
The film examines the infamous 1989 Central Park Jogger case, where a young white woman is brutally beaten and raped in New York's Central Park. At the same time, a group of five young black and Latino teenagers were quickly arrested for the crime and imprisoned. Following swift arrests by law enforcement officials, the prosecutors proudly declared the conviction as a step forward in the reclamation of a the city. Despite the lack of concrete evidence, all five are found guilty on multiple charges. Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, and Kharey Wise each spent between six to 13 years in prison, professing their innocence, while maintaining that it was a coerced confession to the crime. However, a chance encounter between the oldest of them and convicted serial rapist Matias Reyes, who years later yields his free admission of sole responsibility for the crime, and the claim is further substantiated with DNA evidence.
The documentary's approach seamlessly blends past and present, re-examines the assault, and walks you through what happened to the teenagers, from their arrest through their exoneration. Burns captures the complexity of history with startling results, yet "The Central Park Five" isn't quite as comprehensive as hoped, and fails to add anything substantively new to the story. Additionally, an element of balance is missing that would have turned a very good documentary into an exceptional one.
"The Central Park Five" presents the facts of the case with clarity, and it is a courageous, revealing look at the often complex and broken legal system in the United States. Unfortunately, there is no avoiding the conclusion presented by historian Craig Steven Wilder: "Rather than tying [the case] up in a bow and thinking that there was something we can take away from it, and that we'll be better people, I think what we really need to realize is that we're not very good people."
The case of the false guilty verdicts - which led to many years of unjustly served prison sentences - was actually less interesting than expected. It comes down to: some kids were intimidated into confessing. There were not many tricks, traps, or unexpected turns - except for the surprise confession many years later which led to the overturn of their conviction.
We do get a sense of how a bunch of kids were rounded up - and then, by happening to be held when the discovery of am especially violent rape was discovered, become the arbitrary focus of all subsequent investigations. Yet, without the cooperation of anyone in the police force or prosecution, we get little insight into the politics of how this pressure came.
When I was a teen, I once picked up a book on legal first aid (geared to people who might be arrested at demonstrations). The most important advice, which should be handed down from parent to child is always: *Always retain your right to remain silent. Never talk to police without an attorney present*