The Central Park Five

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sarah Burns gives an in-depth account of one of New York City’s most notorious crimes—the brutal assault on a woman who became known as the Central Park jogger, which took place April 1989. The Central Park Five: A Chronicle of a City Wilding intertwines the stories of the five black and Latino teenagers who were arrested and confessed to the crime, despite the fact that they quickly recanted and that no DNA tests or eyewitness accounts existed, with the stories of the police officers, the district attorneys, the victim, and Matias Reyes—the man actually guilty of the attack.


Sarah Burns

Comments [26]

Manolo Pachanga

@John from office who wrote:
Think of the crimes prevented by the arrest of these "boys". Really? Did you listen to the interview before typing that gem? The real rapist went on to rape five other women. So the question you should be asking is: Gee imaging if the cops didn't arrest the wrong people for this horrible crime? At least five other people wouldn't have had to suffer such a terrible fate.

May. 30 2011 03:33 AM
toujouravocado from Los Angeles

I was dismayed that Sarah Burns showed such ignorance about New York City. Just one example: she is critical of persons who suggest that the jogger had no business running in Central Park after dark. Ms Burns suggests that this is a classic example on blaming the rape victim for being raped. But as Humprey Bogart tells Conrad Veidt in Casablanca (quoting from memory), "there are certain parts of New York even the Germans would not want to invade."

Central Park after dark is certainly one of those.

May. 24 2011 09:33 PM
ron from flushing

mr lopate does sarah know that mieles name appeared in a black tabloid immediately?also the new yorker published a story of wilding prior to central park jogger story.

May. 23 2011 10:03 PM
Stephen from CT

I hear nothing that says these angels were not part of the pack of miscreants
that hunted down and savaged this woman. Only that DNA evidence cleared them of the actual rape.

May. 23 2011 06:25 PM
lawrene ordine from bayside

Part of the problem here is the style of criminal investigations. the police fix on the most likely suspects and push to "build a case." Testing truth is not really part of the process--unless you mean breaking an alibi. It's like a physicis theory--we like it until something proves it wrong; of course the consequences are disasterous when they go to far and become invested in the work already done. And they see so much of the dismal side of human behavior, they have little faith in anyone--"they are guilty of something if not this."

May. 23 2011 04:20 PM
DTorres from Nathan Strauss Projects

This is a good lesson to apply in all
cases, not to jump to conclusions,
regardless of how something looks.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a case in

It all looks good, but no one really knows

He could be innocent.

May. 23 2011 02:34 PM
Barbara Lifton from New York City

The law suit filed by the falsely accused defendants will not be settled by the City or other defendants because the amount demanded is very high. They will take the chance that the jury in the case will consist of some or your correspondents, above. The NYPD will never admit that it made a mistake, because macho men never err, and admitting incompetence is too expensive.

May. 23 2011 01:02 PM
Caroline from New Jersey

I found Sarah Burns exposition very confusing and difficult to follow. Unprofessional. Not impressed AT ALL. Do other listeners agree? Lenny?

May. 23 2011 01:01 PM

I had a friend who was stabbed to death in the park in 1990. The killer was never caught. I blame the criminal apologists like the author. Also I knew she would refer to the 80's "vibrant". Scary, very scary.

May. 23 2011 12:52 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Can the papers that omitted "allegedly" be sued for libel?

May. 23 2011 12:47 PM
John from office

Think of the crimes prevented by the arrest of these "boys".

May. 23 2011 12:44 PM
Mike from Inwood

@Patrick from the Bronx: I see no parallels.

May. 23 2011 12:44 PM
Amy from Manhattan

The NYPD is just starting a pilot program of recording the full interrogation **now**?

May. 23 2011 12:42 PM

And my final comment about the park: packs of stray dogs. I witnessed these dogs coming out of the park and attacking folks on the street--day or night. Really it was just plain risky going into the park.

Nonetheless, what happened to this young woman was awful.

May. 23 2011 12:41 PM
Mike from Inwood

They are decent kids from stable homes?

What stable family allows their 14 or 15 year old son to wonder around in Harlem and Central Park in the wee hours of the morning. Granted, they did not commit the rape, but that doesn't make them nice kids who were railroaded. It makes them juvenile delinquents who were railroaded.

May. 23 2011 12:40 PM

@art525 from Park Slope

I remember that concert, and yes it got wild! NYC was really wild back then--there is no comparison to now and all the fancy shops and coffee shops.

May. 23 2011 12:32 PM
Ken from Brooklyn

I understand why Sarah Burns uses the term "tunnel vision" when discussing the behavior of the police during the encounter with the bodega owner. But lets call this what it is.

The NYC police department, in this case, was utterly incompetent. I can only hope they learned something from this complete failure to do their job.

May. 23 2011 12:28 PM
Roberta from Brooklyn

Does the crime rate in the 80s mean that it was ok for 5 teenagers to be accused, tried, and imprisoned for a crime they didn't commit?

May. 23 2011 12:25 PM
art525 from Park Slope

I agree with soupygirl. I am a big guy and I sure wouldn't go into the park at night. This conversation sounds naive from one who wasn't there at the times. And as soupy says "wilding" was rampant. I was on Columbus Avenue after the Diana Ross concert in Central Park where a pack of wilding kids were going down the street stealing necklaces and anything that that could grab from people. It was out of control and incredibly frightening. I knew numerous people who were assaulted and robbed. I saw a cop holding a gun to a guy's head in Grand Central one day. Things were crazy.I had a car back then here in Brooklyn and it was stolen and when I got it back it was constantly vandalized. You may remember all the broken car windows and signs in the windows of cars saying "No Radio". Having said that it is really unfortunate that those five innocent guys spent time in prison when they shouldn't have.

May. 23 2011 12:25 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Does Ms. Burns have any suggestions for how railroading of suspects--by the police, the DA's office, politicians, & the media--can be prevented?

It seems to me that the press in particular should be questioning how cases like this are dealt with, but from what I remember so much of the coverage was just piling on the kids who'd been arrested.

May. 23 2011 12:23 PM

@dan k from Chelsea

Thank you, you are right on--we went to school at the same time period and I remember that too!

May. 23 2011 12:21 PM
Nathaniel from New York City

What of the forensic evidence that was central to the convictions, the blond public hair found on one of the defendants. Who put that blond public hair on the defendant? Can they DNA test it now, and find the identification of that person who's hair it is??

May. 23 2011 12:20 PM
john fredricks

Sorry, but this author's politically correct tightroping - to avoid simply admitting the high violent crime rate among minority teens at that time - makes her book suspect.

May. 23 2011 12:19 PM
dan k from Chelsea

I worry about revisionist history of NYC in the 80's. I grew up in park slope and went to high school at LaGuardia HS, behind Lincoln Ctr, from 88-92. I was jumped on my block 2x, in Prospect Hgts, and at school 2x. Gangs would show up at our high school and other schools, just looking for fights, called "wilding." we would get out of school early because the principal would say that reports were coming in of gangs heading to the school. The subway was frightening all times of day, and no neighborhood in Brooklyn was safe. just about every single friend of mine was jumped at least once. statistics are not enough to give a true picture of life in NY at that time

May. 23 2011 12:16 PM

Sorry, I grew up (70's, 80's) on 110th street, and you knew not to go into the park after dark. We had many friends get mugged and beaten up walking past the park.

And "wilding" was rampant!

May. 23 2011 12:14 PM
Patrick from Bronx

There are clear parallels between the Central Park case and the Scottsboro Boys during the Roosevelt years. The Scottsboro incident occurred in a remote town in Tennessee. Isn't it ironic that the Central Park crime took place in the middle of New York City?

May. 23 2011 10:11 AM

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