So said Craig Wilder, Professor of History and Head, MIT History section. By the end of the documentary, "The Central Park Five," I believed him.
The movie profiles the attack on the Central Park Jogger in 1989 and the countless tragedies that came out of it. Trisha Meili was victimized and beaten beyond recognition. Five teens were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to between five and fifteen years. The real perpetrator, Matias Reyes, continued to wreak havoc until he confessed to the crime in 2002. After years of wasting their young lives behind bars, the Central Park Five were finally released.
The crime was a brutal one, but there was no blood evidence. There was no forensic evidence. There was little evidence at all, but each conviction hinged on the video taped confessions of the alleged perpetrators. It's incredible to imagine how these young men could have implicated themselves so thoroughly and how a few minutes in front of a video camera could have destroyed their young lives, but that's exactly what happened. The film gives some sense of the exhaustion, deception and false promises that could have resulted in the manufacture of their false confessions. Still, the viewer is still left wondering how in the world that could have happened? How could so many smart people have been so wrong?
It's a movie that helps you learn the story that the media never really tells: what does it mean to have been wrongfully convicted? How does it happen? Where did we fail? It's common to hear stories about people released from prison after years of incarceration for crimes they didn't commit, but it's so rare that you get the opportunity to hear how we got there and what happened next. This movie takes the time to tell that important story It's not pretty. It's a story of human frailty, fear, race and politics, and it's a vital one we all should hear.
I hope we're good people, but this movie is an eye opener that highlights how we fall far short of the ideal. There's no hope of our getting better without learning from mistakes like this one.
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