The Central Park Five

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Sarah Burns and David McMahon, who produced, wrote, and directed the documentary “The Central Park Five,” along with filmmaker Ken Burns, talk about the film, about five young men who were wrongfully convicted of the 1989 rape of a jogger in Central Park. The filmmakers are joined by Raymond Santana, one of the five men who is featured in the film. "The Central Park Five" is playing in NY at the IFC Film Center and at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and will be playing on demand December 7.


Sarah Burns, David McMahon and Raymond Santana

Comments [22]

Meredith from NYC

The movie 12 angry that movie to cops as part of their training. If the police want respect they have to earn it. Police extracting false confessions with deliberate, planned manipulation should result in being fired, and being prosecuted by the law. Crime on the part of officers of the law leads to lawlessness.

Dec. 05 2012 08:42 PM
Richard from Oakland via Brooklyn

Great segment, Mr. Lopate. I think, in answer to your query as to why people continue to believe these 5 men are guilty in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we get some important clues from research in psychology and cognitive science. As far back as William James, psychologists have emphasized the essentially conservative (LITTLE c!) nature of our beliefs. (James says in "Pragmatism," "in this matter of belief we are all extreme conservatives".) Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky's research points out the numerous biases we are subjective to because of our cognitive systems. Once a belief is asserted and people believe it, it is very difficult to dislodged, even if it is contrary to the facts. And since the media spun a narrative that explained the crime and put it into a context, it becomes even more solidified. A means of avoiding such false conviction, subject as they are to the baises of cognition, is to rationalize the system as much as possible. So, contra john from office, we don't import prejudicial beliefs or irrational predictions of future behavior in our judgments of crimes (in direct violation of the "innocent until proven guilty" principle). A very very difficult process indeed.

Dec. 04 2012 08:20 PM
john from office

Yes, things have not changed, young black and latino men disproportionally commit crimes. Resulting in the society fearing them. Make the change at home folks.

Dec. 04 2012 04:04 PM
Wayne Johnson Ph.D. from Bk

Sarah Burns has this right, it is and was pure racism. As Raymond Santanna made clear "stop and frisk" shows that nothing has changed.

Dec. 04 2012 01:52 PM
Leo from Queens

Michael B from Morningside Heights: your recollection of what was going on in the late 80's is inaccurate and is a representation of what the current politicians and mass media portray about NYC before it became shiny and perfect under the paternalistic rule of our benefactor Bloomberg. You are basically covering up for the politicians and NYPD now by painting this picture of hell and mayhem. - I grew up here since 1978 and there was hardly any graffitti in the subways in the mid 80's. There was violence and gangs, but not as you portray it with 'wilding'. Civilization was NOT "coming apart". Maybe in the late 60's and early 70s' with the race riots and power outage riot. But not in the 80's - There was homelessness and there was crack but you could walk around and take the subway late at night and not feel unsafe - Unless you were in very specific bad areas which CONTINUE to be bad and unsafe. I went to NYU in the mid 80's and traveled the subways back home to queens at 2am many nights. No violence!. Were there murders and crime? ABSOLUTELY. JUST LIKE NOW and at the same rate

Dec. 04 2012 01:17 PM
Leo from Queens

This tragedy - for ALL involved - is really due to the lack of accountability and prejudice (YES Race and class and gender and political connections play into this) that exists within our society and permeates our government - Specifically in this case is the authoritarianism, corruption, lack of transparency and accountability with the NYPD and the district attorney's office - Morgenthau and his cronies have left a legacy of injustice and corruption and it still permeates the Manhattan DA's office that continue to operate above the law.

Dec. 04 2012 01:11 PM
Howard from Bronx

In answer to the question "How can someone hold onto false beliefs?" see "The Twelve Angry Men" with Lee J. Cobb and Henry Fonda.

Dec. 04 2012 12:47 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I have a friend who was murdered a few years ago and it took a while to find out who did it because the perpetrator was arrested for another crime shortly thereafter and was in jail for that. It wasn't until he was being released that the powers that be finally got around to testing his DNA and arrested him for my friend's murder.

The point here is that once a crime like this rape and my friend's murder is committed, anyone who is in jail but was not at the time of the crime should have their DNA tested automatically so they can find the perpetrator more quickly, and, consequently, release any suspects who can conclusively be proved not to have been at the scene.

I hate the whole DNA thing; I don't want to be a code on a piece of paper; but in the pursuit of justice, I feel that the penal system should get and use all the DNA info they can to separate the guilty from the innocent.

I also hope these young men, who were so unfairly imprisoned, will be fairly compensated - although I cannot imagine what kind of compensation could possibly be fair for the loss of so many years of their lives.

Dec. 04 2012 12:40 PM
fuva from harlemworld

FOLKS, the NYPD refuses to compensate these kids for this. In 2012, with a re-elected black president. Discard any rose-colored (or supposed race-neutral-colored) glasses...

Dec. 04 2012 12:36 PM
John from LES

I love how Sarah Burns can make these judment calls (racsim, lynching) with 20/20 hindsight. Recall Brian Watkins, stabbed in a NYC Subway on his way to the 1990 US Open, protecting his mother from a gang snaching chains (excuse me - youths snaching chaines); bled out in front of his family. The NYC of the 70's, 80's and early 90's is a far cry from today. Hopefully her film reflects what was going on in NYC during this time.

Dec. 04 2012 12:35 PM

I was a teenager in 1989 and was sadden that kids my age were capable of this horrible crime. Now I'm horrified adults forced these kids to confess based on their own prejudices. 17 years is a life time for a teenager. Where are the police now? They should pay for this crime.

Dec. 04 2012 12:33 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Typical that John from the office would
-- justify falsely-convicting rock-throwing, jogger-taunting boys of rape and attempted murder.
-- not make the connection between false-conviction, prison time, no rehabilitation and recidivism.

Dec. 04 2012 12:32 PM
john from office

Amy, he is selling drugs, the poor man.

Dec. 04 2012 12:32 PM
marcus clinton

what has linda fairstein had to say about this documentary or the whole contraversy surrounding the false confessions?

Dec. 04 2012 12:31 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Yes, the impression proved more powerful to the police, but it should not have. As professionals, they were familiar with false confessions and versed in due process.

Dec. 04 2012 12:31 PM
Oscar from ny

The only good cop ever is named Murphy...and thats ROBOCOP

Dec. 04 2012 12:23 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Leonard, could you ask how Mr. Santana & his codefendants are doing these days? Did they receive any compensation or help to make the transition to life outside of prison? And what about the victim of the crime that they didn't commit but that did happen--what kind of shape is she in now?

Dec. 04 2012 12:22 PM
John A

I tried going through the system with a public defender once. Very important education on a situation that might be described as a complete loss of status. Justice must be paid for? My lesson, at least.

Dec. 04 2012 12:21 PM
john from office

I lived in NYC at this time and the City was a madhouse. Wilding was a real thing. These "kids" went on to have records and commit other crimes. I see it as we saved tax payer dollars because they were off the streets. I like how Raymond parrots legalese.

Dec. 04 2012 12:18 PM
Hugh Sansom

Why isn't the NYPD treatment of these kids considered torture? The kids are terrified, denied their rights in any substantive sense, driven to exhaustion and confusion. Sounds like psychological torture to me. If we heard of an American soldier being treated like this by captors, the media and the US government would call it abuse, at the very least.

Dec. 04 2012 12:14 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

"Wilding" was a common phenomenon at that era. The physical structure of the city -- think about the graffiti all over the city and especially the subways -- was deteriorating terribly. Civilization seemed to be coming apart at the seams.

Ask the guests if they lived in NYC during that era, because if they didn't, they wouldn't know what it felt like, day in and day out.

On the other hand, if the police & the DA didn't do their jobs properly, they don't get dispensation. Their responsibility should ALWAYS to be to get at the truth, not to notch another conviction in their belt. Because to arrest and convict the wrong person is not only a miscarriage of justice to the wrongly accused/convicted -- but it LEAVES THE ACTUAL CRIMINAL STILL ON THE STREET, AND ABLE TO COMMIT MORE CRIMES!

Dec. 04 2012 12:14 PM
Maggie from nyc

Have any of the detectives or investigators gone to jail?

Dec. 04 2012 12:14 PM

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