The Central Park Five by Sarah Burns

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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.

About Sarah Burns

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Sarah Burns graduated from Yale University in 2004 with a degree in American studies and went on to work for Moore & Goodman, a small civil rights law firm based in New York. She is now producing a documentary film with Ken Burns based on this book. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Published May 17, 2011 by Vintage. 256 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Professional & Technical, Law & Philosophy, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Central Park Five

Kirkus Reviews

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Burns' examination is especially powerful because she moves beyond the specific crimes to examine the poisonous combination of police tunnel vision, over-aggressiveness by prosecutors, inept defense attorneys, inaccurate journalists and portions of society so racist that the inability to detect l...

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The New York Times

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This is the first sustained treatment of the Central Park jogger case since the defendants’ convictions were vacated.

Jun 17 2011 | Read Full Review of The Central Park Five

BC Books

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"The detectives who interrogated them," the author argues, "believed that they were guilty from the start, and the legal–if questionable–tactics used by those detectives to extract the confessions, along with other subterfuges that probably crossed the line, caused a series of reactions in all th...

Jun 03 2012 | Read Full Review of The Central Park Five

AV Club

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So unlike the comprehensive, authoritative voice of most of Burns’ documentaries, The Central Park Five is more subjective, bordering on claustrophobic as it walks viewers step by step through how five kids became the most reviled people in New York City, even though the contradictions in their s...

Nov 22 2012 | Read Full Review of The Central Park Five

Huffington Post

The twists in the procedural won't be revealed here, but Burns (here co-directing with his daughter Sarah) has a stunning amount of archival footage, including the taped "confessions" of the boys being led by police and prosecutors, another confession from someone outside of the five, courtroom s...

Nov 02 2012 | Read Full Review of The Central Park Five

Oregon Live

But it does bear his hallmark as an efficient, artful assemblage of talking heads, including ex-mayors Ed Koch and David Dinkins, and historical material such as newspaper headlines and TV news reports.

Dec 13 2012 | Read Full Review of The Central Park Five

Seattle PI

Author Sarah Burns takes readers through the infamous 1989 Central Park Jogger case in The Central Park Five: The Untold Story Behind One of New York City's Most Infamous Crimes .

Jun 03 2012 | Read Full Review of The Central Park Five

Chicago Tribune

That, plus a 2002 confession made by serial rapist Matias Reyes — who admitted his guilt to one of the wrongly accused while both were in the same prison — served to free the Central Park five.

Dec 06 2012 | Read Full Review of The Central Park Five

St. Louis Today

They are young people who prefer working with their h… Stock market may seem out of touch, but its rally is built on solid ground Centene executives miss bonus target, lose some stock City kitchen designer to close suburban store Too many stores in St. Louis?

Dec 14 2012 | Read Full Review of The Central Park Five

Film School Rejects

The Cannes official selection usually includes a couple of interesting documentaries to cleanse the pallet of all the high-art and fiction, and this feature-length portrait of the infamous New York rape case certainly offered something more for those film fans who like to get their factual kicks,...

May 27 2012 | Read Full Review of The Central Park Five

Badass Digest

In 1989 a white woman was brutally beaten and raped in New York City’s Central Park.

Nov 21 2012 | Read Full Review of The Central Park Five

Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books

In June of 2002, I read an article in the New York Times stating that the New York City Police Department and Manhattan District Attorney's Office were re-opening their investigation of the 1989 Central Park Jogger case.

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