Netflix’s new drama revives controversy over Trump’s infamous death penalty ad


June 13, 2019 14:03:20

The new Netflix miniseries, When They See Us, has revived debate around Donald Trump’s controversial role in the so-called Central Park Jogger case, which saw five young men wrongly convicted of rape.

So let’s review what happened on the night of April 19, 1989, and how the now US President got involved.

What happened in the ‘Central Park Jogger’ case?

On April 19, 1989, a white woman was raped and beaten while jogging through New York’s Central Park.

Trisha Meili, an investment banker, was beaten so badly she was comatose for several days and still has no memory of the attack.

After lengthy police interrogations, five black youths aged between 14 and 16 confessed to the crime.

But Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise — who together became known as the Central Park Five — later recanted, insisting they had been coerced into confessing by police.

After two trials, all five boys were convicted and served prison terms of six to 13 years.

But a judge vacated their convictions in 2002 after another man confessed to the crime and DNA tests confirmed his guilt.

The five were then awarded $41 million more than a decade later.

So how did Donald Trump get involved?

At the time of the attack, violent crime was on the rise in New York.

So following the boys’ arrests, Mr Trump took out a full-page ad in four New York newspapers urging authorities to “bring back the death penalty”.

“What has happened to our city over the past 10 years?” the ad asked.

“At what point did we cross the line from the fine and noble pursuit of genuine civil liberties to the reckless and dangerously permissive atmosphere which allows criminals of every age to beat and rape a helpless woman and then laugh at her family’s anguish?

“And why do they laugh? They laugh because they know that soon, very soon, they will be returned to the streets to rape and maim and kill once again — and yet face no great personal risk to themselves.”

Some accused Mr Trump of pre-judging the Central Park Five and stoking tensions in the city.

But he told Larry King at CNN that he’d “never done anything that [had] been so positively received”.

“I’m not pre-judging at all. I’m not in this particular case. I’m saying if they’re found guilty, if the woman died … I think they should be executed,” he said.

“I think they should have the death penalty. I think most people agree with me on that.”

Why is the case still a flashpoint?

It’s been 30 years since the Central Park Five were arrested, but their story remains a cautionary tale in the US today.

“Here we are 30 years later and not too many things have changed,” Kevin Richardson told Oprah Winfrey in a recent interview.

“So I’m so happy and ecstatic that we can start the conversation now and make sure there will never be another Central Park Five.”

Director Ava DuVernay said it was also a chance to reflect on the American justice system.

“My hope is that When They See Us invites you to think about the overall justice system and all of the people ensnared within it,” she said.

“This is how the system, despite the wheels of justice, mowed us down,” Yusef Salaam said.

But there are some, including Mr Trump, who believe there’s still more to the story.

“The fact that that case was settled with so much evidence against them is outrageous,” he told CNN in 2016.

How has the miniseries been received?

When They See Us has been the most watched series on Netflix in the US every day since it premiered on May 31.

But the accusation that it is an “outright fabrication” has been made by one of the prosecutors in the case, Linda Fairstein.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal this week, she said the series was “full of distortions and falsehoods” and defamed her.

“[It’s] an utterly false narrative involving an evil mastermind (me) and the falsely accused (the five),” she said.

A Netflix spokeswoman said the company had no comment on Ms Fairstein’s remarks, though Ms DuVernay said on Twitter the response was “expected and typical”.

Ms DuVernay said it was important for people to be “held accountable”, but added “it would be a tragedy if this story and the telling of it came down to one woman being punished for what she did, because it’s not about her”.

“She is part of a system that is not broken, it was built to be this way. It was built to oppress,” she said.







First posted

June 13, 2019 13:45:45

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