‘Central Park Five’ relives an injustice

Ken Burns is at it again.

The acclaimed documentary filmmaker is going to tell a horrific story of injustice that involves five young men, a female jogger and a case that enraged the nation. The young men were convicted in the media, in the court of public opinion and in the minds of Americans who just knew, by golly, these young were guilty of the crime for which they had been accused.

“Central Park Five,” a documentary to be shown Tuesday night at 8 on KACV-TV, reveals how the five men got caught up in a story that gripped the nation in 1989.

Central Park Five

One night nearly 25 years ago, a young female was jogging through Central Park in New York City when she was attacked and sexually assaulted. She was left for dead in the park. The police then arrested the five men, all of them African-American. Prosecutors charged them with the horrifying crime. Public officials at all levels proclaimed that justice would be brought to the individuals.

But there was a problem. Police gathered zero DNA evidence linking ahy of these young men to the crime.

Ken Burns — who told the “The Dust Bowl” story of the Texas Panhandle and the High Plains in another documentary — tells us what he learned about the Central Park jogger assault and rape case.

Burns had some difficulty telling this story. Authorities sought to confiscate outtake tapes of interviews conducted in the making of the film, but a federal magistrate delivered an important victory to Burns a few weeks ago when refusing the authorities access to the interview material. Here’s what I had to say about that ruling back then:


But the project is done. It’s set to air on Public Broadcasting Service stations across the country. KACV is one of them. Tune in and learn how the criminal justice system occasionally can spin itself out of control.


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