Do You Remember The Central Park Five? Netflix Gave Us Another Look

The “Central Park Five” were a group of teenagers who were arrested, tried, and convicted after a female jogger was raped and savagely beaten in Central Park, New York City in 1989. The case is still more important than ever, especially in light of Trump’s full-page newspaper article written only days after their arrest. He argued that the five teens should suffer for what they did, and then be executed.

They were between the ages of 14 and 16 at the time, which caused quite a stir. 

But considering all the evidence suggested their innocence — in spite of their eventual conviction in 1989 and subsequent exoneration when the real perpetrator confessed in 2002 — Trump still claims the five were obviously guilty. Trump says they should never have been exonerated, and certainly they should never have won any money from the inevitable lawsuit that resulted (they did). 

Netflix ran a limited series called When They See Us based on the story of the Central Park Five. The series is widely considered one of the streaming giant’s best this year, and recently received sixteen emmy nominations for everything from creative choice to acting skill. 

DNA evidence was a big factor in the 1989 case, but the science was relatively new at the time and most people — jurors, for instance — probably didn’t really understand how it worked. None of the DNA taken from the crime scene was connected to any of the African American and Hispanic kids who were arrested, which guaranteed that someone else had committed the rape for which they were convicted anyway.

The Central Park Five have a lot to teach us even today, as we continue to arrest, try, and incarcerate minorities at a much higher rate than our Caucasian citizens, who commit crime at a statistically higher rate. Race is still a big factor in our criminal justice system, which leaves many of us baffled when so many others don’t seem to think it’s broken.

Trump still rants about the crimes of immigrants who arrived unlawfully (and sadly, those who have) all the time. He stokes fears about immigrant-based crime, even though statistically immigrants commit crime at a lower rate than the rest of us. Much of the data provided by those who think otherwise is widely skewed to include those whose only crime was entering the country without using a point of entry (which doesn’t exactly suggest they’re a danger to the rest of us). 

It’s obvious that our criminal justice system is in great need of fixing — but how are we to begin the much needed repairs when our own president seems to work against us at every opportunity?