Required Viewing – The “Central Park Five”

Apparently to be aired on the PBS network tonight.

Maybe they won’t pull any punches here, which would be good because this is an important story.  The degree and extent of our system’s failure here is not, unfortunately, so much shocking as it is instructive.  I don’t know all the details.  It would be interesting to learn how anyone ever got to the bottom of it, after the system achieved its beloved “finality” and the jailhouse doors had been closed, locked and the key long since discarded.

Of course the kids were innocent.  Vulnerable.  And innocent.

I hope it turns out to be a parable.  About them, of course.  But especially about us.  I don’t imagine it’s going to be too flattering.  From everything I know, it shouldn’t be.



Filed under Judicial lying/cheating, Media incompetence/bias, wrongful convictions

4 responses to “Required Viewing – The “Central Park Five”

  1. The sad thing about this story, apart from the lost years and suffering of the boys, is that they were only vindicated because the real killer, in a freak of luck, came forward. What they should have been acquitted on was the complete lack of DNA evidence of their having been in contact with the woman and the presence of DNA pointing to someone they couldn’t supposedly identify. Since he was later convicted of other crimes his DNA would have come up in the system later, so why wasn’t it eventually matched in the routine matching checks they do all the time? Or was it matched and they just shrugged and said “Meh…why open a can of worms now – the guy’s in jail anyway…” The possibility of this is terrifying, that wrong convictions might be uncovered all the time through routine DNA checks but because someone doesn’t want any feathers ruffled and public embarrassment for law enforcement they shove it to the back of the drawer and pretend they never saw it… sickening.
    Also, the film doesn’t indicate that anyone was ever held accountable for corrupt coercion of suspects, especially minors. There do not appear to have been any particular requirements for the interrogation of minors in place. This was a form of child abuse, yet is there recourse for such gross violation of children?
    Sounds like NYPD and prosecution team all went on their jolly way and never suffered repercussions. Notable that the lawsuit by the 5 has been pending for 10 years. Despicable.


    • Yes, the lack of accountability is both typical and disturbing.

      I don’t agree with one of the early interviewees that the defense lawyers failed. Or, maybe they did judged against a nearly impossible to meet standard that no one would ever apply to a prosecutor. In “wrongful acquittals”, like OJ Simpson and Casey Anthony, it seems prosecutor blunders are readily forgiven and they are actually rewarded.

      The role of the press in whipping the public up into a frenzy is a bit underplayed, methinks.

      The very thoughtful and gentle commenter, whose name escapes me right now but I’ll find it later, had it right when he talked about us and our collective responsibility. We’re so ready to believe what turns out to be a rather stupid and incredible story because for some reason we need to. And race enters into it, but it’s not all race. Being black makes it more likely that you’ll be on the receiving end in the first place, but everyone who gets on the receiving end, once that train starts moving, is in the same boat.

      It has a lot to do with “careerism”. People get invested. That explains a lot not only about why these things happen, but also why there’s so little accountability.


  2. reader

    I was surprised prosecutors didn’t railroad the real killer when he started talking. Morgenstern actually acted on it. Why? Why did these cynical people suddenly give a darn? Would shutting the guy up have been any worse than the rest of the stuff they did in this case, and do all the time? I have to say I was pretty stumped by that. Maybe there is something legally about it that would make it difficult to do. (?)

    I think the lead prosecutor on that case was suffering during the trial. I think I could see it in her eyes in various shots in the documentary.


    • I agree the prosecutor seemed upset most of the time. Not sure whether that means good things for her or bad. She can always stop, you know. Might be hard with all the glare and pressure, but that’s why you get rigorous training before they let you prosecute people.

      On your other point, these things usually seem mysterious. Why does someone finally do their job? And when they do, why does anyone pay attention? Why does it matter all of a sudden, when it hasn’t mattered for years?

      I don’t know. I hope I find out, or at least make my contribution to the ongoing mystery by having someone give a shit other than me. And her.


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