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Editor’s Column: Central Park Five Controversy Will Never Be Forgotten

By Kassondra Granata

On April 19, 1989, Trisha Meili, a white investment banker was chased down, raped, and brutally beaten during a night job in Central Park in New York City.

Five juvenile males, four being African American and one Hispanic, were tried and convicted in 1990 for the crime. These culprits were known for assaulting strangers that soon became known as “wilding.” Four out of the five suspects, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray, and Korey Wise confessed to the crime, but Yusef Salaam refused, and all were sentenced.

Within weeks, the four had retracted their statements and said that they were intimidated to make false confessions. No DNA evidence tied the suspects to the crime, so the case solely relied on confessions. Analysis even indicated later that the DNA collected at the crime scene didn’t match the suspects, and the DNA that was extracted came from an unknown person.

In 2002, Matias Reyes, formed a friendship with one of the five suspects while they were serving their sentences. Feeling guilty that an innocent man was in prison for something that he had done, Reyes confessed that he raped and beaten Trisha Meili that night in 1989.

Naturally, the media diligently covered the case and the wrongful conviction throughout the whole process. When the victims were released, Ken Burns and his daughter Sarah Burns took action. Sarah Burns, the author of The Central Park Five: A Chronicle of City Wilding, investigates the case, and gives it a narrative. The book is a phenomenal example about the a flaw that can occur in journalism, and also discloses an account that the city has tried to conceal.

Following the novel by Sarah Burns, her father Ken Burns produced a documentary about the case outlining the glaring error that the city made to five innocent adolescents. The documentary depicts the themes of discrimination, as well as the abysmal performance by New York City in carrying out this case.

The documentary, recently shown at the Chicago International Film Festival on Sunday, has been said to reopen the wounds that the city has tried so hard to conceal. New York City lawyers are now demanding Burns to turn over the footage before it is released in Manhattan Nov. 23. According to the New York Daily News, the city is trying to keep composure, for it is already facing a $250 million lawsuit for their wrongful conviction.

This whole debacle is extremely unethical. Not only has the city publicly hindered the First Amendment, but they are openly defending themselves. The fact that the city is attempting to seize the documentary will only make it look even more guilty. They should let their mistake be known, and take the consequences that they will receive.

I am appalled that this city would do this. The five victims will never be able to compensate all of the time that was wasted on the city’s end, so why not let them get some sympathy from the public? The city can try to bury this case into the ground all they want, but with the media, and other advocates on the Central Park Five’s position, it will continue to revive as one of the most controversial cases in American history.