Like most documentaries involving Ken Burns there is plenty of information here and the research done has obviously been thoroughly done. What has been dug up and shone a spotlight on will make most who watch it very angry. We see how the justice system, a body we have entrusted to protect us, can sometimes be swayed by the same types of prejudices and stereotypes as the rest of us. Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Kharey Wise, Raymond Santana, and Yusef Salaam had a chunk of their lives take from them by the very institution charged with upholding the law. The documentary should serve as a warning to all of us.
In 2011 Sarah Burns released a novel entitled Central Park Five. Released in conjunction with this documentary the book covers the case of the Central Park jogger. In 1989 a woman was jogging through Central Park was attacked and raped then left for dead. On that same evening a gang of black and Latino youths were hanging around the park. The group of 14 and 15-year olds were collected by the NYPD and several of them were forced to admit to a crime they did not commit. To further the injustice, the boys were all found guilty and served sentences from 6 to 13 years long. Finally another serial rapist named Matias Reyes admitted to the crime. DNA tests backed his admission. Due to this case the divisions between class and race widened and deepened within the city of New York. The documentary asks the question of why these young men were arrested and why they would confess to a crime they did not commit?
At the beginning of the documentary we learn about the general climate in the late 1980s. The media and their lack of thoroughness while covering the case. How the boys’ legal defense was woefully incompetent is shown as part of the reason these innocents were found guilty. I mean it was obvious that the boys could not have committed the attack and rape as they could not have been in two places at once.
As Ken Burns is involved you know that the points are all well-presented and objectively told. They don’t bash those involve or point fingers, rather they just present the facts. The very necessary telling of the story was long overdue and an important watch. There are interviews with the five boys, now men, which demonstrate that they are well-spoken and realistic. They all speak of how they were bullied by the police into confessing to the crime. How they were lied to and told that if they cooperated with the police that they would be released.
Watching this is at times hard because you just wonder why it took so long to get it right and then even longer for the story to be told. At times I was very angry watching it due to the injustice. It is sad that a large part of these five men’s lives were stolen from them. The importance of documentaries like this is that they are cautionary tales of us blindly accepting what the media tells us and that we have to fight our need for quick justice in the aim of getting it right.
-Making the Film: Interviews with the Filmmakers
-After “The Central Park Five”