centralIn her book The Central Park Five: The Untold Story Behind One of New York City’s Most Infamous Crimes Sarah Burns gave the spellbinding account of the real facts of the “Central Park jogger case”.  She powerfully examined one of New York City’s most notorious crimes and its aftermath. Now that book is a documentary from renown director Ken Burns that examines the 1989 case of five black and Latino teenagers who were convicted of raping a white woman in Central Park. After having spent between 6 and 13 years each in prison, a serial rapist confessed to the crime.

The film is out now. If you’re looking for a powerful documentary, consider The Central Park Five.

On April 20, 1989, the body of the “Central Park jogger” is discovered crumpled in a ravine in Central Park. She’s been raped and repeatedly beaten, her skull is so badly injured she’s lost fifteen pints of blood before two passersby happen upon her bleeding body. Seemingly the case is solved quickly. Within days five black and Latino teenagers are apprehended by the Central Park precinct, and all five confess to the crime. The staggering torrent of media coverage that ensues coupled with fierce public outcry expose deep-seated race and class divisions rife in New York City in the eighties and nineties. The minors are tried and convicted as adults for rape despite no evidence linking them to the victim and differing accounts of the event. When DNA tests connect serial rapist Matias Reyes to the crime nearly a decade and a half later, the government, law enforcement, social institutions, and media of New York City are exposed as having undermined the very rights of the individuals they were designed to protect.

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Books on Film: Friday Flick: The Central Park Five

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