A new four-part Netflix series follows the stories of five men, known as the ‘Central Park Five’, who were wrongly convicted of rape.
The harrowing new show, titled When They See Us, is based on true events which took place in April 1989, when the group were arrested for the rape and near-fatal assault of a wealthy, young woman in Central Park, New York.
There was no physical evidence linking them to the horrific attack, and the victim, Patricia Meili, has no memory of the night. But still Raymond Santana, 14; Kevin Richardson, 14; Yusuf Salaam, 15; Antron McCray, 15; and Korey Wise, 16, were all convicted.
Watch the trailer for the new series here:
New York Police Department officers reportedly intimidated the teenagers into implicating one another – even though only two of the five actually knew each other. Police were also said to push the boys to falsely confess their involvement on video; tapes which were then used to secure convictions against all five boys.
The real identities of those involved became wrapped up in the case, until Meili became ‘the Central Park Jogger’, and the boys were simply known as ‘the Central Park Five’.
When They See Us details how the boys were charged, and years later cleared of the notorious crime. The case drew a sharp focus on to the racial bias of the city’s police force, and the series focuses on how the accused teens and their families tried to navigate the criminal justice system.
It is directed by the Oscar-nominated writer and director Ava DuVernay, who spoke to CBS News about how the series would change the way the ‘Central Park Five’ are seen in the eyes of the public.
My goal was to humanize boys, and now men, who are widely regarded as criminals. And in doing that, to invite the audience to re-interrogate everyone that they define as a criminal.
DuVernay went on to point out race is seen all too often in criminal cases, saying:
I’m asking the question to everyone, ‘What do you see when you see black boys?’ And that’s a painful answer, because I know what the answer is for many people.
It’s exactly what these boys were called: wolf pack, animals, criminals, so much so that they could be tossed aside on a case that was made from a complete lie.
As well as making for captivating viewing, the series will no doubt shed light on many issues involving race and the criminal justice system which are still prevalent today.
When They See Us will be available to stream on Netflix from May 31.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.