In 1989, our racially divided city was in an uproar over what happened to the Central Park jogger, a woman who was raped and beaten while running in the park one evening.
Five Harlem teens were convicted after much coercing, manipulating, threatening, and lying on the part of homicide detectives.
In 2002, they were finally exonerated and set free.
And now there’s a movie to look back at the horror.
The Central Park Five–by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon–looks at the warped ethics, racism, and lust for resolution that led to this miscarriage of justice, which was sort of a modern-day Scottsboro Boys.
There was a VIP screening of the film last night and then a dinner at Circo, where Ken Burns told me the five guys were easy targets because “they had never been in the system. They were the most vulnerable to [the police’s] tactics. They wanted to please and they wanted to go home.”
And so they started confessing!
Burns said that the ironically named Linda Fairstein, the prosecutor that got the boys convicted, didn’t look happy when the conviction came in.
Said he, “She looks like she’s been kicked in the stomach.”
She got what she wanted–but at what price?
As for the guys, Burns said, “We’ve all lied and know the extra work it takes to keep up that lie. You can see that work on all their faces!”
The film also shows how Donald Trump was piggishly pushing himself into the p.r. fray even then.
Trump spent a fortune taking out large newspaper ads in which he begged for the death penalty for these kids because of their alleged savage attack.
Classy, huh? Thank god no one listened or five innocent teens would have been exterminated without a second thought.
Lest you think things have changed a lot since then, we currently have that horrid “stop and frisk” system which mainly targets people of color.
And we still have Donald Trump going after one of them too.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 3, 2012