The True Story of How a City in Fear Brutalized the Central Park Five

“When They See Us” revisits the case of the wrongfully convicted teenage boys. A writer who covered the original trial looks back on a warped time, and the warping of truth.

Comments: 100

  1. I understand the story, but I’m not sure about making these people into heroes. The hero is the victim.

  2. @Michael Livingston You ever hear of 5 white teenagers being treated like this? Their very survival is heroic.

  3. @Michael Livingston They were all victims and they are all heros but for different reasons. If these had been 5 white teenaged American boys wrongly imprisoned for rape and attempted murder in Iran or Mexico there would be major Hollywood movies made about their ordeal. The name of the movement Black Lives Matter was literally created to address the sentiment in your comment.

  4. @Michael Livingston Heroes? nah sir.... just a typical story of how police abuse their power and how easily it is to convict black and brown citizens. If they are guilty fine apply the the law of the land! BTW I don't think you understand the story if you think that they are heroes versus victims

  5. Interesting how their bad behavior on that same evening is brushed aside. “They had been in the park with a makeshift group of 30 other young people, some of them making trouble — hassling a homeless man for his food, forcing bike riders to run a gauntlet, badly hurting a man at the reservoir — while others watched.” That was called “wilding,” and it was a big problem at the time. Still is, depending on where you are. Are we to believe this was their one and only instance of participating in wilding? That defies credibility. Younger people today have no memory of that time. There were 10X as many murders per year as compared to today. NYC was a mess, and running in fear from such behavior. Ask your parents or grandparents. Babies were laid to rest in the bathtub, as armor against stray bullets coming through the windows or walls. It’s not a surprise that the police seized on these guys. It wasn’t much of a stretch to imagine that they escalated from violent assault on a man to to violent assault on a woman. In a world before DNA testing, sometimes the confession stood alone. Add opportunity and motivation, in the absence of a good counter argument, and you can get a conviction.

  6. @A Contributor Firstly, despite your citation there is no evidence in the article that those 5 boys individually committed any crimes at all. Secondly, even if they did commit other crimes they were wrongly imprisoned for rape and murder which is much more serious than pushing someone off of their bike. In America our legal system is supposed to assign the appropriate punishment for each type of crime. Thirdly, the idea that the 5 boys may have done something else wrong that night to justifies why they went to prison for something much more severe (rape and attempted murder) is an enduring form of racist rationalization that has been used sense the start of this country and demonstrates how the lessons of this story have not really been learned by some people. Can you imagine the police grabbing 5 random white kids between the ages of 14- 16 and wrongly charging them for rape and attempted murder? Can you imagine after finding out over a decade latter people justifying their wrongful imprisonment because they pushed someone off of a bike? I can't imagine that either.

  7. Spot on, but your analysis forgot to mention the people and institutions that are supposed to know better Like the executive branch of our city government, mayor and NYPD ; the judicial branch of our city government, DA and judges; and lastly the NYC press. The jogger, those boys and this city were failed by those institutions.

  8. A Contributor....nothing excuses the coerced confessions, the Blue (and very Caucasian) Wall of Corruption, the incipient racism, the false convictions and the prison sentences. Yes, it was a more dangerous time in New York City, but locking up innocents for years and decades and throwing away the key is pretty dangerous too.

  9. Joan Didion pointed all this out decades ago, eloquently and powerfully.

  10. Now do people see why the death penalty is wrong? The repeated cries for the killing of the people unjustly convicted in this case should chill us to the marrow. There is no way to even begin to undo, or make amends for, an erroneous state-sanctioned killing. Until we have a perfect system (don't hold your breath) there is no way we should kill people. Even the often-cited Biblical death penalty was set up so that it was nearly impossible to impose. The person facing death must have been explicitly warned in plain language just prior to committing the crime that the crime could result in the death penalty, and the crime was required to have been viewed by minimum of two people as it happened. A Hebrew court that sentenced to death more than two people in 70 years was written in history as "bloodthirsty."

  11. The presumption of innocence is a novel concept still. It should animate all the steps in the application of justice; it should not be enough to say “they were close by” or they “resemble” a perpetrator. Police procedures, plea bargains and Politics in DA offices are a melting pot that always seems to serve up a poisonous stew to people of color and the poor. If there is one benefit of the smartphone era, is that the pictures and videos captured should convince citizens they no longer can presume that police forces should be given “benefit of the doubt “ in their testimony in court.

  12. Wrongful convictions are the bane of our criminal justice system, and no one suffers more at their hands than young black men. The Central Park Five were victims of such an injustice, yet, innocent of the rape and assault of the Central Park jogger as they are, they were guilty of disturbing criminal behavior on that same day. The left concentrates only on the wrongful conviction, but Mr. Dwyer and at least one of the young men themselves, admit that they were committing crimes against other New Yorkers in the park that day. One of the five admitted they were there to rob and accost people in the park. As a disabled man I am glad I didn't run into them in Central Park that day, and though I'm glad their wrongful convictions were overturned, I hold no sympathy for young men who terrorized people weaker than themselves and wish they had been tried and convicted for the disgraceful crimes they did commit. American society did them an injustice that day, but they did American society an injustice as well. If they hadn't been in the park that day travelling in a group just for the purpose of robbing, scaring, and hurting vulnerable New Yorkers we never would have heard of the Central Park Five. Those young men make very poor martyrs.

  13. @jdnewyork They had every right to be in a city park; most of them have/had hardWORKING families who paid taxes to support those same parks. How are you so sure they committed crimes? Because the aggressive prosecutor said so? Arresting, convicting and punishing young teenagers because you’re sure they have done something else/some type of crime is lazy, dangerous and an abuse of power. Full stop.

  14. @Doubting thomasina Several of them have admitted as adults to being in the park to harass and rob people. Their railroading for the rape was atrocious, but they should absolutely have spent time in jail for the actions they did take.

  15. People are willing to overlook facts that do not line up nicely to produce a story they can feel good about. Unfortunately there is nothing good about this story at all, and the Hollywood treatment rings very hollow.

  16. I remember it well. I am so, so ashamed of myself. I thought I knew better.

  17. “With a new Netflix series revisiting the case of the wrongfully convicted teenage boys, a writer who covered the original trial looks back on a warped time, and the warping of truth.” Those ads Trump ran were an incitement to lynch. Many New Yorkers whole heartedly agreed with him. Today he employs the same tactics on a national scale, bringing the worst out of many of us, stoking the same fears and hatreds. Times haven’t changed at all!

  18. @Mr. B Overwhelmingly, Trump is focused on punishing people, regions, companies and countries - from those who criticize him, to those trying to escape difficult circumstances, to countries who disagree with him, to people who are wealthier than he is, and on and on. Don't tread on his delicate toes. He is the Punisher, and many Americans who likewise have a chip on their shoulder are thrilled with him.

  19. What a horror story, worth actualizing, to show what happens when the police tries to resolve a case with scant proof, just to show efficiency and resolve. As to why Donald J. Trump, long afte Matias Reyes was found to be the guilty criminal (instead of the other guys, falsely accused), insisted on his blaming those innocent youth of the criminal deed, is beyond any reason, perhaps a tribute to his short attention span generally, and his long-term conflict with the truth in this particular case. As to why we elected this thug president shall remain a deep mystery...unless you think there is a sizable segment of the population that agrees with Trump's shameless, and conflicted, stand.

  20. "...looks back on a warped time, and the warping of truth..."add another 300 years.

  21. Where was the judge who sat on the case? Where was he to check a blind prosecutor and a gung ho police department?

  22. This excellent article omits mention of Linda Fairstein --- now a novelist, but from 1976 to 2002 the head of the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney's office. She believed these boys were guilty then. She may be the only public figure to continue to share the view of Donald Trump --- despite massive evidence against the actual rapist, she still believes the Central Park Five are guilty. Last year, the Mystery Writers of America announced that Fairstein had won a "Grand Master" awards for literary achievement. The MWA seemed unaware of her views about this case and her role in it, but it quickly heard from many --- loudly. Two days later, the MWA withdrew the award.

  23. "the prosecutor incorrectly said that hairs matching the jogger’s were found on the clothing of the boys." "Incorrectly said"? In a closing argument? Where on earth did that oh-so-gentle framing come from?

  24. Guilty until proven innocent, when you are brown skinned. American criminal justice is a joke for the poor and minorities. As long as voters vote for white supremacists, this will continue forever. Ain't nothing this article is going to do. Not. One. Thing.

  25. Accusing people of a crime before you're sure they did it, maybe bad criminal justice but it's good politics. If you are a politician, participating in, and indeed, stoking, the hysteria surrounding an infamous case will often help your political career - even if the charges turn out to be false. I offer 3 examples: The aforementioned Donald Trump's action with the CP5. (And Trump, btw, used the bogus claim of Obama's foreign birth in much the same way). Rick Perry. Everyone remembers his famous "oops" moment, but in an even bigger one, he sent a man to his death after it was revealed there was a lot of exculpatory evidence in his favor. The evidence didn't matter. President Trump admires this kind of bold action and appointed him Energy Secretary. I'm not sure why he didn't appoint him Attorney General. Here, in South Carolina, Governor Jim Hodges, had an uphill battle for re-election in 2002. As a Democratic governor in a red state, he felt compelled to be seen as tough on crime. To this end, he allowed a man to be put to death even though the evidence was far from the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard. (The victim's daughter wanted him spared). In these examples and others, what is bad morally, is good politics. True, Hodges lost his race, but not because of they threw a possibly innocent person under their campaign bus.

  26. The New York Times, Netflix, Twitter, etc., should not be glorifying these 5 men. Although they were eventually exonerated of the charges, let's not forget about the horrendous crime epidemic that was sweeping New York City back in the late 1980s. These 5 young men were not idyllic little angels like the Netflix series makes them out to be. At the time of the crime, they were roaming the streets absolutely up to no good. Perhaps they didn't commit the brutal assault on Ms. Mieli. But let's not kid ourselves into thinking these teenagers, loitering at the wrong place at the wrong time back in 1989, are worthy of any praise or commendation. I hope these 5 individuals are prohibited from receiving any financial gain from being included in this mini-series. They already received more than $40 million from the City of New York. The real victim in this case is Trisha Mieli. Maybe Netflix should focus on her instead. Her story is the true story here. A story of how a person on the brink of death can overcome the odds, thanks to medicine, resiliency, faith, family, and good will.

  27. @Some Guy Maybe we should send you to prison for 12 years for a crime you didn't commit. You'll probably change your attitude. They were all victims as well as the other women raped by Mieli's attacker because the NYPD didn't bother trying to find the truth.

  28. @Some Guy: Right! Dark-skinned teenagers loitering: they must be guilty of something.

  29. @Thomas . They had no problem using the park that night. For the rest of us, that idyllic night time place from the old movies was long since surrendered.

  30. The 2012 documentary by the Burns family was phenomenal. So much so, that a new dramatization seems unnecessary. Nevertheless, I shall revisit this tragic story.

  31. @The Buddy The series will break your heart- it's about the interiority of these young people.

  32. @The Buddy There are dozens of documentaries and dramatizations about the Holocaust. Until the racist state of mind that allowed for slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and the continued intractable institutional racism is extinct, there cannot be too many documentaries and dramatizations of this type. Learn from them.

  33. Thanks to Mr. Dwyer for another fine article, including the admission that the atmosphere of fear affected even honest journalists like him and the remarkably, and sadly, eloquent observation that "the racial tropes of our past were not abandoned in ancient boneyards, but were poured into the concrete that modern America was built on."

  34. Central Park in 1989 was a nightmare. I stopped walking home from work through the park because of the danger. What happened to the woman was the end for New Yorkers. They wanted revenge and, unfortunately, they got it with the wrong people.

  35. Excellent article. Unfortunate that a few seem to still view the case through the prism of they must have done something wrong. The case was never about any other alleged activity they may or might have been involved in but only the rape and attempted murder of the jogger, PERIOD. Any other rationalizations are just plain false and have nothing to do with wrongful apprehension and subsequent conviction. We grow by admitting that we erred and committed an injustice. Not to do so is to guarantee the same outcome.

  36. Perhaps part of the settlement to the five individuals should have been paid by Trump. I remember the ad he placed against the five individuals.

  37. Interesting article, having lived in NY city at that time. Would have been better without mention of Trump.

  38. @Lmj Trump's inclusion in this article is totally relevant-his position and actions were well known at the time and part of the history of what happened. It is also connected to his pattern of behaviors during his campaign and presidency.

  39. @Lmj He's the president of the united states and pushed himself into the narrative back then by spending money calling for the death penalty to kill 5 young boys for a crime they didnt commit. It'd be irresponsible not the mention it.

  40. @Lmj Trump's full page press campaign and endless publicity stunts prior to the trial of those five boys is an important foot-note. The current President of the United States is accused by more than a dozen women (including one wife) of sexual assault, has a public history of bragging about same. Trump appears to have been projecting his own guilt onto five kids in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  41. "hassling a homeless man for his food, forcing bike riders to run a gauntlet, badly hurting a man at the reservoir"--did they give a penny of their massive settlement to these victims? Or even an apology? It is a grave injustice when anyone is unjustly convicted, but all the post reversal media and film coverage gloss over thee other crimes. And their supporters revealing the victims identity. And their supporters repeatedly accusing her grieving boyfriend of having done it. How would you like to "ride a gauntlet" of 30 people threatening you?

  42. Perhaps the most egregious example of “what about” ism EVER! Whatever else they did is irrelevant to the issue at hand.

  43. @DSM14 I'd say they more than paid for what they actually did......

  44. @Canary in the Coal Mine--Agreed. @Robert Trosper"The issue at hand" is the Netflix film's portrayal of them as totally innocent angels--innocent of the rape--yes. Innocent of other crimes that night--no.

  45. As ever, Donald Trump got it all wrong. The difference is thirty years later we’re all paying for it.

  46. A fantastic article by Jim Dwyer and the NYT. And yet another indictment of institutional white supremacy, the Blue (and very Caucasian) Wall of Corruption, rush to judgment, police brutality and America's Bottom-of-the-Barrel-In-Chief. The story of America is the story of whitewashing, a 400-year story of white people sweeping their murderous, unjust and discriminatory behavior under the rug while nonwhites suffer from forced segregation, forced confessions, forced guilt, forced suffering while oblivious whites say "what's the problem ?" or "get over it". There is a lot that is good about America....and there is a lot that is awful about America. The Central Park Five travesty was a very awful and predictable American disgrace was our Hater-In-Chief's starring publicity-seeking role in the affair. As a white man myself, Trump's lust and insatiable appetite for hate and peddling hate is not only disgusting, but incredibly dangerous to humankind. May to gods of justice show mercy and irony award some good old-fashioned prison time to our Hater-In-Chief just as he lusted so thirstily for the punishment of five innocent men who happened not to be white.

  47. @Socrates Last I checked the hater-in-chief still believes the boys are guilty. Hate Trumps all.

  48. Has Trump ever apologized?

  49. @TMOH has he ever? for anything?

  50. @TMOH I read that he just recently doubled down.

  51. @TMOH Of course not ! The man's unteachable and totally incapable of any self examination. Stunted mental and emotional development,beginning in early childhood. $41 million was a paltry amount to settle these young men's lawsuit.

  52. Had they been tried for loitering or for hassling homeless people or bike riders as the article states, the punishment, hopefully, would have fit those minor crimes. Instead, their presence in the park that night led to wrongful incarceration and demonization. That's the tragedy and travesty here. Why would we, as fair minded Americans, living under rule of law, want that outcome for anyone - even if that night they were, maybe, involved in dumb acts teenagers - of all backgrounds - sometimes do? Now, if you want to see a real, adult criminal who committed his deeds with full knowledge that he was doing wrong, look no further than a man who willingly ripped off thousands of his fellow Americans by setting up and promoting a phony "University". That adult in his late 50's at the time was and is Donald J Trump. Trump University. Fraudulent and criminal. 6000 plaintiffs sued him - people he ripped off. $25 million dollar settlement to save his hide. You or I or the Central Park 5 - all of us unable to buy our justice - would be in jail today for that. But, none of us would be that criminally, morally sick as to set up a phony university! Especially if we were billionaires like Trump. Now would we.

  53. If I recall correctly as a New Yorker it was ALL MEDIA , along with Trump who the media cheered on and a large segment of NY'er's who had convicted those boys (at the time) as adults in the Court of Public Opinion. I recall some NY Media harassing their families, printing family members photos and their addresses in Schomberg Plaza in Harlem. This entire City and Media was at their worst and nastiest during this case. This demonstrated the clear hatred and racism that is baked into our City. Worse is no media apologized to those young men or their families. That speaks more than anything

  54. Let us not forget Trump's heavy hand in this debacle. For those of us who do, back when he was running, the thought of him as president made me shudder.

  55. @VJO Sadly, what Trump voiced back in '89 was what many people, including myself, wanted I'm ashamed to say.

  56. @DSM14 There is no mention in this article of which of the other incidents in the park these five men were involved in. Yet you assume they were involved in all of them. That kind of assumption is what led to this horror in the first place. Additionally, you seem to blame five men for what their supporters did. They’re not responsible for what their supporters did. In any case, what would your family and friends have done if you had been falsely accused of, tried, and convicted for a crime you didn’t commit? I remember thinking that the elements of the crime did not add up, and I was dubious about the confessions. I’m extremely dubious when a 16-year-old confesses to anything in a room filled with police officers. I didn’t understand why others refused to share that opinion. I hoped the five defendants would not be acquitted — but we were in Trump’s America. They were convicted. Now, decades later, we desperately want to think we’ve moved beyond that America. Trump and his supporters tell us how wrong we are. 52% of those voters tell Pew pollsters that black people are either lazy or stupid. Trump’s America has never gone away and, listening to his supporters, it doesn’t sound like it will. The future belongs to Trump. The future belongs to the white supremacist Republican Party, which has secured permanent ownership of our government (though nobody wants to talk about it). The past is prologue.

  57. Anyone who is to sit on a jury should read this article, in fact it should be mandatory reading. Witnesses in a trial can lie, and do lie, and prosecutors lie. This knowledge is the only thing even a little bit positive that comes from this sordid case. While America continues to cling to the failed notion of citizen jurors, men and women picked from the crowd, many uneducated as a matter of fact and just about all of them uneducated in the law and court trials, such travesties will continue. The best option when it comes to Jury trial is that you get one chance with citizen jurors, an appeal should lead to a trial decided by trained , professional jurists. Besides being quicker, professionals will have hundred of trials to glean experience from. Citizen jurors are to easily tricked, to easily fooled. Many have been convicted who wee innocent, and many who were guilty as sin, set free. The worst aspect of this trial is that person who was guilty, a brutal, depraved rapist who enjoyed murdering and maiming his victims, was allowed to continue his mayhem, destroying many more lives while the police closed the case.

  58. Prior to the trial, the FBI tested the rape kit DNA and found it did not match any of the Central Park Five. So, police knew they didn’t have the actual rapist, but thought the Central Park Five took part on the attack. They still think that.

  59. @William Case And they're still wrong. These were kids who were coerced into fabricating the story that law enforcement needed to bring this awful crime to a close. All you had to do was look at the photos of the crime scene. It was a wet, muddy area. There was one track about 18 inches wide of Ms. Meili's body being dragged. There was NO indication in that mud and grass, that five people were struggling to assault her.

  60. @William Case there were many kids running through Central Park that night. The police grabbed five kids and forced them to confess without their parents or a lawyer present. They were children who signed “confessions” after many hours of interrogation. They were told they could go hone if they signed.It was the worst misuse of police enforcement that I can think of in the many years I lived in nyc.

  61. "Trump never admitted that he was wrong about the Central Park attack, and there have been perilously few consequences for his role in amplifying the hysteria surrounding it. Now the man who manipulated the fears of a city is directing a much bigger production." ---New Yorker Magazine ...and the beat goes on. See you at the polls in 2020

  62. @C. Whiting Most people thought the Central Park Five were guilty because of their confession, their admission of guilt on videotape with their lawyers and parents presence, and their subsequent conviction.

  63. Trump doubled down on his beliefs about it, even after they were absolved.

  64. Speaking of mumbling when you should be railing.... You first write - "In the series, these events are fictionalized, lightly but not trivially. " Then to later write, almost gossing over a big foray into "poetic license". "In the series, the police and prosecutors are portrayed as immediately aware of these discrepancies. That is false." That is not serving history well. I've always thought Ava Duvernay had an obvious axe to grindwith many an institution in all her work that would make documenting honestly impossible for her in a subject like this. These boys were wronged. She doesn't have to bend the facts.

  65. @Ignatius J. Reilly Whatever agenda Duvernay may have, one fact remains. New York City police officers coerced five innocent men into signing confessions. The very idea of a 16-year-old spending 24 hours surrounded by police officers should have made somebody wonder. Very few people wondered. The prosecutors didn’t wonder when they should have. And as prosecutors, they knew better; it’s not like they hadn’t spent a good deal of time in the criminal justice system of New York City. But they cared either about the absurd confessions or how dubious the forensic evidence was. Do you ask yourself about the hair that was presented at trial and the DNA evidence saying one of the boys was there? Do you think that kind of evidence doesn’t require a dozen people to turn their heads from the truth? It was false evidence. It was presented at trial. They knew it. None of them cared. Whatever “poetic license“ the filmmaker took, the ruthless determination on the part of the NYPD and the prosecutors to secure the conviction of five innocent boys remains.

  66. @ADN Not a big fan of crooked NTC cops, esp. of that era. However, we see a pattern in her "historical" work that is not serving anyone well. "Selma", a fictionalized account of the famous historical Civil Rights march, had the exact same criticisms against it. (Why didn't this reviewer address that?). Historians lambasted her distortion of truth to make a better "movie" when in fact newer generations, as in this case, know little about the true facts of history and she, as in this case was one of the first to outline them in a large forum. She totally omitted the fact that the very first person to die in the Selma violence was a white pastor James Reeb - , who came all the way from Long Island and put himself in harms way for justice. He was brutally attacked the night before the march. His courage and death needed to be honored - but it didn't fit with her "tack" on things. She was better as a performance artist where one is supposed to be provocative. A historian is not served well by these instincts.

  67. @Ignatius J. Reilly Watch "When They See Us" and see what you think. No director is free of bias, and neither are we as viewers. Both can evolve in the ability to see and understand other perspectives. Reaching an audience is what great directors do, with the help of a huge team of collaborative talent. The interaction of our perspectives is the space where a powerful film's ability to move us becomes something we can not only see and think about, but feel. This series is a masterpiece. Watch it for that reason if no other.

  68. Trump - a criminal - wanted these five teenagers (who were not guilty) to be executed even after they were proven innocent. Trump hasn't changed any. He's still a criminal, and now he's punishing asylum seekers... ... and once again Trump is not actually being punishing them for a crime.

  69. The article states that"In the series, the police and prosecutors are portrayed as immediately aware of these discrepancies. That is false." People who watch "When They See Us" should realize it is a lie disguised as "fiction." The producers justify the lie as "dramatization," but it is still a lie to to incriminate investigators. In reality, the police knew the DNA from the rape kit did not match any of the Central Park Five because they had sent the rape kit to the FBI for testing. This fact was not hidden from the jury. In gang rapes, it is not uncommon for the DNA of some of rapists not to show up in the rape kit analysis. This is also the case when there is a single rapist. DNA can be used to help established guilt but its absence alone does not indicate innocence, although the absence can provide reasonsable doubt. The Central Park Five verdict wasn't overturn on the basis of DNA evidence. It was overturned because a convict serving a life sentence on other charges claims he committed the rape by himself. Police still think the Central Park Five took part in the assault. They still deny they coerced the videotaped confessions. The Central Park Five repeated the confession on videotape with their parents and lawyers present.

  70. @William Case Good try, Mr. Case. I'm not feeling you.

  71. @William Case The distortions in the series are problematic. That aside, I know a great deal about that police department, and I’ve known several members of it. What you would hear from them would make you shudder. We are not talking about Ted Bundy here. We’re talking about kids. It is inconceivable that the cops didn’t know they were coercing false confessions when so many of the facts didn’t remotely add up. It is not inconceivable, however, that they reiterated their confessions because they had been kept awake and were in a state of collapse and exhaustion. You simply cannot ignore that not one of those five could correctly describe where the rape took place. The idea that they could have participated is particularly ridiculous given the physical circumstances. The cops knew that, the prosecutors certainly suspected, and nobody said a word. I’m sorry, with Mr. Trump in office I have to wonder how anybody can get behind his allegations of their participation and in essence continue the injustice these men experienced. Wait, I don’t have to wonder. Unfortunately I know.

  72. @ADN: Agreed. I knew someone - a frail, vulnerable man - who confessed to a crime that he didn't commit under police interrogation at about the same time as the Central Park Five case. The notion that he committed it was patently ridiculous to anyone who knew him; he simply didn't have the capacity to carry it out, much less any discernible motivation. He was quickly exonerated, mercifully; his case has been cited repeatedly in journal articles and other reviews of the methodology of coercing/eliciting false confessions. I, too, know cops and have worked with them; as with human beings in every profession there is a mix of good and bad - the difference here is that the bad ones wield a tremendous amount of power over the lives of others.

  73. .....and Trump carries his racist beliefs to this very day and moment in all he thinks, says and does....for the sake of our country and the God given rights of its citizens, its time....Be Brave.

  74. When I was a teenager in Oklahoma City in the 1950s, a group of white football players from Harding High School took a girl into a park and gang raped her. When it all somehow hit the fan, the father of one of the criminals, a prominent OKC lawyer, was quoted in the Daily Oklahoman as saying that everyone knew what kind of girl she was, and besides, “boys will be boys.” And that was the end of that. The blaming of the victim and the quote are, by now, cliches, for good reason—that really is the way it was done.

  75. Maybe at this moment in time Trump learned the power of hate and how to use it.Welcome to America 2019.

  76. Arguing about the facts of the case seems pointless to me. The truth of this history and its relevance to present and future realities about the individual human and societal impacts of our unjustifiable legal system is undeniable. Without much memory of the actual case, I watched it expecting an obvious bias to be readily visible. Instead, what I found was a most intensely probing drama that did not flinch in painting portraits of complex individuals, their families and the brutal systems in which they lived. This work is not the simplistic morality tale that we've come to expect from docudramas. I've not seen Burns' earlier work, so cannot compare it to that; however, this series made its most impact upon me with the clearly detailed portrait of how the punishment of ex-offenders continues after they are released - and the devastating effects this has on society. It's one thing to be aware of this intellectually; quite another to feel it through the finely detailed portrayal of living individuals experiences. Whether one views "When They See Us" as film or history, it must be seen an epic accomplishment of incisive storytelling, worthy of the highest acclaim and ongoing discussion. The directing, acting and editing talent involved in making this series is of the highest caliber. The pacing and length of each episode took me into emotionally immersive places I never expected to experience. This filmmaker is brave and incredibly talented.

  77. I grew up in New York City (Gramercy) and was 15 years in high school at the time of the rape. I have clear memory of the rape and until the exoneration I had no memory of the arrest or trial. I just finished watching the first episode of the docuseries and it was gut wrenching to watch. I wish all the children their age at the time, myself included, knew and understood what was occurring in the police precinct walls and were present in force fighting and protesting. I am truly sorry we were not their to defend our city from racism and the criminal injustice that has created such a moral scar on our society. I am sorry for my generation failing.

  78. @Jessica Foglesong You should also be very very sorry for the fact that the racism in the city at that time was fully endorsed in full page ads in NYC newspapers by none other than Donald J. Trump....yeah....him....the President of the United States of America.

  79. As a resident in NYC during that period, I was appalled then as I am still appalled now at how those children were treated. Not being much older than them at the time, it didn't occur to me until much later that Trump had actually called for them to be lynched! Yes, his full page ad in the NY Times was the modern day version of southern men hanging around at some local gathering spot, when one of them suggest going to the local jail and or the home of some poor black local to mete out mob justice. Thankfully, these men lived to be exonerated. Emmitt Till and countless others from a dark period in American History didn't.

  80. Remember the crime and times well. Have been through that part of Central Park countless times before the incident. It is a part of the park that is basically unchanged from how it was before the the park was designed and constructed. A small stream can be seen sometimes. Thought immediately at the time that 5 boys down there would leave foot prints in the dirt/mud and signs in the brush and branches. As this article stated at the end no such markings were found. Police and prosecutors careers were advanced by the false convictions. Are not people responsible for their own safety? Running at night thru this area invites trouble. The rapist knew it, a police officer who warned her about exactly that knew it ( not in this article), the victim a very intelligent hard working lady knew. She was not a New Yorker but from Pittsburgh. I went to university in Pittsburgh, was born in the Bronx. I realized early on where I could be in that city and where I couldn't depending on the clock. I too was a runner.

  81. I remember this well. I cannot fathom how these young men fared through this ordeal of hate. I also cannot understand how law enforcement can bring charges/trial/prison against people that they have even the slightest feeling may be not guilty. By arresting individuals that haven't committed a crime, they are allowing the true perpetrator to continue to be among us. WHY? Thanks to Ms. Du Vernay for producing this series. I'll watch it tonight.

  82. I lived in Greenwich Village NYC in 1989 and was raising my 4 year old daughter. I remained in NYC and remember the outrage and fear that permeated the city. I always referred to the wrongly convicted men as the Central Park Five. After watching Ava DuVernay's amazing and humanizing docudrama, I now hope to never forget the names of these five men and the tragedy of what was done to their lives, their families and to New York City. I will also remember the names of those who fed on fostering this hatred and violence and fear in 1989 and continue to do so today.

  83. @Patty Peter Well Patty, remembering at least one of the names of those who fed on fostering this hatred and violence and fear in l989...will be easy is Donald Trump, President of the USofA.

  84. @Pauline Hartwig Exactly.

  85. Can the New York Times spare a few tears for the victims of the Crown Heights pogrom and Freddy's Fashion Mart Massacre. Nothing is more telling about race then the Central Park 5, Benhearst, Howard Beach- 3 instances of wrongs towards blacks in NYC are constantly held up as symbols of America racism. Crown Heights and Freddys Fashion Mart happened in the same era and city.But because the perps were black it has been intentionally written out of history. I have never seen any anti-racist activist treat the victims of Crown Heights and Freddy's with the respect of the CP5, Rodney King, Jena 6. Black criminals are dotted on. Neither the CP5 or Rodney King were victims of racial profiling. Yankel Rosenbaum, Anthony Grazzoni, Issac Bitton- now those are victims of racial profiling. But the same media and activists who shed so many tears for black criminals, their hearts turn to pure lead when asked to show the same compassion for these victims of racist terrorism.

  86. @Tara Pines not similar.

  87. I notice that Jim Dwyer does not even mention the names of "the authorities" most responsible for this debacle. Why does he side step naming sex crimes unit Linda Fairstein and prosecutor Elizabeth Lederer who knew of the major discrepancies and yet went forward with Fairstein's concocted theory that never held water. Shame on them. And to this day, neither have had the character or integrity to admit their mistake and ask the defendants for forgiveness. Why does Dwyer let them off the hook?

  88. What a coincidence that, decades ago, our current POTUS was guilty of inciting violence based on rumor, hearsay and false information. Perhaps he was the first person to hold that high office who ever committed such a crime, and highly doubtful that it will ever happen again. Unless he's re-elected. Vote.

  89. "The tunnel vision that took over the investigators is rendered solely as amoral ambition, but the reality of error in the Central Park case, as in most everything, is more interesting and nuanced than cartoon villainy." this reporter who apologizes for not getting it then - still doesn't get it - the way in which those interrogations were conducted - was indeed cartoon villainy - and check out the prosecutor's record and how differently she handled cases against white rich rapists - the preppy murderer - harvey weinstein - etc

  90. It is painful to relive these injustices, and I'm taking this series 1 episode a day, safeguarding my mental health so that I don't fall into despair. Watching some years ago Ken Burns' documentary on the Central Park 5 had made me angry and disgusted--what kind of govt could be so committed to a conviction that it would take advantage of poor people and abuse children in the process? Would ignore exculpatory evidence and coerce and coach kids to make confessions by lying to them with a promise that they'd go home? Would be so pumped up to jail these kids that they allowed a serial killer and rapist to continue his rampage for years. after? These black & latino people were not really human to the police and govt. They were, as police & prosecutors & Trump called them, animals, which explains the lack of any empathy or concern or reservations in the way they treated these kids and their parents. Police took advantage at every turn, capitalizing on the fact that they knew the law and these poor people did not (except that they knew police could ruin their lives if they didn't obey). The saddest element of this story is that it's far from the first and isn't the last.

  91. Fear/HATE = the crimes of injustice in the 1989 'Central Park Five' case, did not disappear with the million $ settlement that came after the fact. Fear/HATE = Donald J. Trump in 1989 - who was mostly known as 'the Donald' by NYC's TV society, who placed full page ads in NY newspapers (which at that time he didn't HATE) declaring his personal HATE as follows: "You better believe that I HATE the people who took this girl and raped her brutally. You better believe it." also "It's more than anger." It's HATRED, and I want society to HATE them." These Trump quotes say more about the President of the United States than any of his present day HATE Tweets. Pity those who are still waving the flag of patriotism, still proud of being American. The HATE will boomerang.

  92. Here's one vivid memory I have of local TV news coverage at the time: Ed Koch sneering: "And of course the mothers of these kids will say: 'Oh, he couldn't have done it, he's a good boy'" - followed immediately by a clip of one of the mothers saying precisely that. The bias of these so-called journalists was blatant and disgusting; every day they broadcast a drumbeat of hate, fear, and a presumption of guilt. I hope every one of them feels shame.

  93. I am an elder who has lived in New York City since 1971, so I remember this story very well. As a black woman this story resonated in numerous ways, because the same night the Central Park jogger was brutally raped and beaten, a young black woman was brutally gang raped and sodomized in Brooklyn. She was then thrown off a roof, where she later died. The press had virtually no interest in this story, which was another indication,to me, that the life of a black woman was not as valued as a white woman. This case got the press coverage it received because the victim was white, not just because the alleged perpetrators were black and brown.

  94. I'd like to know what happened to the woman who was the lead prosecutor. She personified evil in the tv series. Did she ever apologize or show remorse for her ruinous police work? Was she portrayed accurately?

  95. Linda Fairstein. shes a best selling mystery author...only in America

  96. @Joel Harrison The following was a quote I found from an NPR article: "NPR reached out to former prosecutor Linda Fairstein, who is portrayed by Felicity Huffman in When They See Us, for comment. She told NPR her attorneys sent documents and videos related to the investigation to the series producers, and that she would only agree to speak with them after they had reviewed the materials. Fairstein said she never heard back from producers after that. She also called the depiction of her in the series "grossly" inaccurate and said the film is a "fictional dramatization of events.""

  97. @Joel Harrison Hopefully the good people of Martha's Vineyard will let Ms. Fairstein know how despicable her actions were when she shows up this summer!

  98. @William Case, Of course the police still believe they had something to do with it. The authorities will never apologize when the victims are non-white. As the number of falsely imprisoned black people exonerated by DNA testing climbs into the thousands with no signs of slowing down, I challenge you to show me 5 instances of a detective, prosecutor, DA, State's Attorney, judge, or anyone white involved apologize for their part in the false incarceration of the black person. You won't find it cause it doesn't happen! Anytime you see that kind of apology, the law enforcement official apologizing is black!! White Supremacy and infallibility, coupled with racism is a powerful drug! It's stronger than science (DNA) and your own eyes(video).

  99. It's worth remembering that the Central Park five were convicted of multiple attacks in the park, of which the rape of the jogger was one. Their responsibility for the other felonies are not seriously contested. Edward Conlon's 2014 piece in the Daily Beast titled "The Myth of the Central Park Five" poses more difficult questions than this article - questions that were never asked, because the decision was made not to pursue a civil case.

  100. @RDA No, it isn't.