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The Central Park Five

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A riveting, in-depth account of one of New York City’s most notorious crimes.

On April 20, 1989, the body of a woman is discovered in Central Park, her skull so badly smashed that nearly 80 percent of her blood has spilled onto the ground. Within days, five black and Latino teenagers confess to her rape and beating. In a city where urban crime is at a high and violence is frequent, the ensuing media frenzy and hysterical public reaction is extraordinary. The young men are tried as adults and convicted of rape, despite the fact that the teens quickly recant their inconsistent and inaccurate confessions and that no DNA tests or eyewitness accounts tie any of them to the victim. They serve their complete sentences before another man, serial rapist Matias Reyes, confesses to the crime and is connected to it by DNA testing.

Intertwining the stories of these five young men, the police officers, the district attorneys, the victim, and Matias Reyes, Sarah Burns unravels the forces that made both the crime and its prosecution possible. Most dramatically, she gives us a portrait of a city already beset by violence and deepening rifts between races and classes, whose law enforcement, government, social institutions, and media were undermining the very rights of the individuals they were designed to safeguard and protect.

Publishers Weekly Review

May 09, 2011 – Everyone in New York City (and likely beyond) is familiar with the beginning of the story of the "Central Park Jogger," a white woman who was raped and left for dead in 1989. What happened next, though, is far less well known, making this powerful book feel especially necessary as it answers the question ("whatever happened to those kids?") that became as troubling as the horrific event itself. In her first book, Burns bravely revisits the details of that night, along with the months and years that followed. Weaving together extensive interviews with the teenage boys (now men) initially convicted and their families, while simultaneously providing extensive cultural context, Burns examines the forces that ultimately obliterated any genuine or humane attempt to uncover the truth. Astoundingly, despite such methodical research, no mention is made of Joan Didion's seminal 1991 essay, "Sentimental Journeys," which originally articulated most (if not all) of these same challenges to the city's psyche. However, Burns deserves credit for bringing the injustice these young men endured to light in the 21st century. As she draws attention to Mayor Bloomberg's recent mention of "wilding," it's clear that the city's narrative continues to ignore the poor until someone is needed to blame. A documentary with Burns's father, Ken, is in the works.

Customer Reviews

Well written and informative

Enjoyed the read, although the incompetence of the legal system in NY at the time is enough to make a nun curse.

The Central Park Five
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: True Crime
  • Published: May 17, 2011
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Random House, LLC
  • Print Length: 272 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings