The Central Park Five

119 minutes 2012

Ken Burns steps outside his sepia-toned comfort zone to revisit the savage rape of an upper-class jogger in New York's Central Park in April 1989, and the gross miscarriage of justice that followed. The film offers a snapshot of the white hysteria then gripping the city, which was stoked by the tabloids and resulted in police and prosecutors railroading five black youths into prison; in 2002, after all five had served jail terms, the real culprit confessed and the original convictions were vacated. Burns and his codirectors, David McMahon and Sarah Burns (Ken's daughter and the author of a book on the case), draw heavily on the videotaped confessions that police ground out of the black kids, which doomed them in court despite the dearth of physical evidence. The cops and district attorneys refused to speak to Burns and company, though now that the movie has been released, attorneys for the city have subpoenaed the outtakes to help defend it against the civil rights cases filed by the wronged men, which have been dragging through the courts for ten years. Burns never had this sort of problem with General Grant.

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The Central Park Five

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