[This article now cross-published by The Progressive...]
I finally found a moment recently to watch The Central Park Five, a documentary film by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon which aired on PBS earlier this year about the travesty of justice following the infamous 1989 Central Park Jogger case.
The word "travesty" here isn't really strong enough to properly describe what happened in this case if the film and the available evidence are accurate.
The film details the story of the five young African-American and Hispanic boys from Harlem, aged 14 to 16, who had absolutely nothing to do with the brutal beating and horrific rape of a white, affluent, 28-year old female jogger, but who ended up serving some seven years each (more in the case of the one 16-year old) after false confessions were apparently coerced out of them by New York City police detectives in the days immediately following the crime.
According to the documentary, one of the kids who was falsely convicted wasn't even considered a suspect when a NYC detective in Harlem, seeking to bring the boy's friend into the station for questioning, suggested the boy come along for the quick ride downtown and back. He promised him he'd be home in an hour or so. It would be years before either of them were allowed to go back home for good.
The film, frankly, is extraordinary disturbing, heart-breaking and infuriating on several different levels, not the least of which was that I lived in NYC when the horrible rape and violent assault --- attempted murder, actually --- took place. I remember the supposed "wilding" incident well, along with the fear and furor that subsequently gripped the city. Yet, I had no idea, until this film, that the boys tried and convicted for the crime were, years later, found to have been completely innocent. They had absolutely nothing to do with the crime they were each convicted of...