When They See Us: The Horror Faced by the Central Park Five

The new four-part netflix drama: ‘When they see us’ talks about what happened on a night in 1989. A 28-year-old white woman, Trisha Meili, had been out jogging in the park and was found beaten and raped. She was in a coma for 12 days – and in that time, the case of the Central Park Jogger would grip New York City.

The Netflix serie is written and directed by Ava DuVernay, she’s also made films such as Selma, based on Martin Luther King Jr, and 13th, a documentary about the US prison system.


Who were the central park five?

Five young men, all from black and Hispanic descent, aged between 14 and 16, would be found guilty and jailed for the crime.They became known as the Central Park Five. Vut guess what? They never committed the crime. The men kept claiming their innocence throughout the case, trial and prison terms.  In 2014, they were awarded a $41 million settlement, but the City of New York denied any wrongdoing.

The Central Park Five were Kevin Richardson, 14, Raymond Santana, 14, Antron McCray, 15, Yusef Salaam, 15, and 16-year-old Korey Wise.

Richardson and Santana were the first to be taken in by police, McCray, Salaam and Wise were taken in the following day. Wise wasn’t considered a suspect at the time but wanted to offer moral support to Salaam.The five boys were interrogated for at least seven hours without the presence of their parents. The boys would later declare that they were threatened and coerced into confessing to the rape and assault of Trisha, as well as implicating each other’s guilt in the crime.

The actual criminal

Matias was only a teenager when he started his brutal crime spree. When he was just 17, he committed his first attempted rape, he held a 27-year-old woman at knife-point as he threatened to assault her. In April 1989, just before the  Central Park Jogger attack, Matias beat and raped another 26-year-old woman in the northern part of Central Park. While he was assaulting her, he was spotted by passersby and fled.

In 2002, Reyes confessed. He told the police he was the one who had attacked and sexually assaulted Meili when he was 17, acting completely alone. His DNA matched that at the scene of the crime and he was able to tell police details about the attack that wasn’t public knowledge.

What about them now?

The Central Park Five are now in their 40s. Most of them have moved away from New York. Salaam said:

“I look at Donald Trump, and I understand him as a representation of a symptom of America. “We were convicted because of the colour of our skin. People thought the worst of us. And this is all because of prominent New Yorkers – especially Donald Trump.”

On the presidential campaign in 2016, Donald Trump was asked by CNN about the ads he took out about the Central Park Five.

“They admitted they were guilty. The police doing the original investigation say they were guilty,” he said. “The fact that that case was settled with so much evidence against them is outrageous.”

Ava DuVernay, Creator, Director and Producer of When They See Us“ stated

“[The] system is not broken. It was built to be this way. It was built this way. It was built to oppress, it was built to control, it was built to shape our culture in a specific way that kept some people here and some people here. It was built for profit, it was built for political gain and power. […] Our real goal is to say “Go America, lets go, lets change this. And you cannot change what you don’t know. So now that you know, what will you do? What will you do to change this?”