CentralParkFive

Having lived in and around New York City during the late 1980s and early 1990s, I watched the “Central Park Jogger” Rape Case, and now watch the story of the “Central Park Five” with fascination, disbelief and horror.  First the brutal rape of a successful and promising young woman, Trisha Meili; her life forever changed by an act of senseless violence. Then five African-American and Hispanic boys, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray and Korey Wise, ages 14-16, were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned, their lives irreparably damaged before they began. This saga is finally receiving the wider publicity it deserves through a film by Ken Burns and his daughter, Sarah Burns. The story of the investigation and trial is a case study in prosecutorial misconduct: a rush to judgment by ambitious prosecutors overly mindful of  public furor, followed by tunnel vision, selection bias, confirmation bias, asymmetrical skepticism, and cognitive dissonance all driving the prosecutors to credit information consistent with their existing beliefs, while  discounting inconsistent evidence. For anyone concerned with how prosecutorial decision-making can be distorted, this film is a must-see.  In a collateral consequence often overlooked, another woman was raped as the entire police and prosecution team failed to connect the dots on Matias Reyes, the actual rapist who had been terrorizing the Upper East Side for months.  Like the story of the Enron Task Force prosecutors, this case also contains over-zealous prosecutors ultimately “rewarded” for their work prosecuting innocent boys, with no professional or ethical accountability once their misconduct is uncovered.

*(tel – with thanks to esp for format)