Movies are made mostly to entertain. But not “The Central Park 5.” I promise you will walk out wondering where the accountability rests for our legal system. And you won’t find any answers because there are none.
Short version: Woman jogger gets raped in Central Park in 1989. Crime is rampant in New York with crack cocaine and gangs of “yutes” (youths) roaming even “safe” neighborhoods. Law enforcement agencies are under pressure to find the perps and bring them to justice.
Five black boys, ages 14-16, are rounded up. They are “read their rights” while simultaneously being told if they just tell “the story” (over more than 24 hours of interrogation without food or drink), they can go home. And so emerge 5 “confessions.” No parents on hand. No attorneys on hand. Only police and the would be prosecuting district attorneys looking for a quick answer. The mostly white mobs outside the station are yelling for blood.
The trials come. The boys insist they are innocent. The evidence mounts. And the there are no DNA matches! The stories are contradictory and do not match the chronologies. So what? The prosecutors place their entire case on the fact that “They confessed.” They are all convicted. They each all spend between 7 and 11 years in jail.
And then the real rapist comes forward. He is in jail for serial rapes. Same modus operandi. His DNA matches. The one yute left in jail is eventually freed. They cannot find work. Their lives have a big chunk missing. But the charges were vacated. Their names, but not their lives, were restored.
Save for the one juror who almost hung the jury, no remorse from anyone. No blame. Linda Fairstein, famous prosecutor of rape cases, stands by her case. The newspapers continue to maintain the guilt even after the real criminal is found. (We all know that truth in reporting is an oxymoron.)
The 5 brought civil suit against the City, in 2003. And they are still waiting as the city fights back asking for subpoenas of the movie’s out takes!
A mistake was made and others suffered as well. The rapist who got away committed other crimes while the police and prosecutors chased the wrong “wilding” youths.
Isn’t it time for these prosecutors and police, who railroaded confessions from boys who were confused and scared, to say they made a mistake and compensate them for the time they stole from them? As a surgeon, even when I do my job well, I am help accountable for outcomes that aren’t as I had hoped. Shouldn’t the police, Ms. Fairstein, famous litigator and author, and her assistant DA, Ms. Lederer, be held to the same standard? Or at least to some standard?
Our legal system if very broken if we have such zealots looking for the “win” rather than the “truth.” Yes, I am still a naive optimist at heart. And that’s saying a lot from someone who survived a ten year legal battle for “justice.” There oughta be a law! Oh, I forget, there is. Maybe there oughta be a better legal system.