"Riveting. . . An important book.” –The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Burns’s gripping tale may serve as an allegory for some of the most pressing criminal justice issues of our time.” –The New York Times Book Review
“This is a controversial and important book, presenting a powerful argument that the minority youths who are convicted of raping and nearly murdering “the Central Park Jogger” were innocent of that crime (though not necessarily of other violent crimes committed in Central Park that night). It demonstrates that our justice system is far from full proof even in the face of alleged confession, eyewitness and forensic evidence. Were these false convictions based on understandable mistakes? Or were they based on racial stereotyping? Read this fine book and make up your own mind.” –Alan M. Dershowitz, author of The Trials of Zion
"Burns is a calm, lucid, and concise writer."NPR
“Gripping from start to finish, The Central Park Five is an unvarnished look at one of the most infamous crimes in New York City history. You may think you know the true story of the Central Park jogger, but you don’t. Sarah Burns tells a harrowing story, in which her only allegiance is to the truth.” –Kevin Baker, author of Dreamland
“Remarkable…Straightforward, thought-provoking reportage.” –Booklist
“A riveting retrospective.” –News Blaze
…[Burns's] research and her commitment to humanizing the five young men (who were apparently somewhere else in the park robbing and assaulting other people) provide a richer understanding of a city and a system paralyzed by crime.
The New York Times
…the first sustained consideration of the case since the young men's convictions were vacated. This redirection alonealong with Burns's exhaustive synthesizing of trial transcripts, interviews and articlesmakes The Central Park Five an important cultural document, and unquestionably worth reading…[Burns] proves herself an energetic researcher and gatherer, as well as a writer with a fine sense of organization and pacing. Her narrative is riveting, even (or perhaps, one must say, especially) in light of its horrors.
The New York Times Book Review
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. (May)
On April 20, 1989, a young woman was found in New York's Central Park, raped and beaten so badly that she had lost most of her blood. Five black and Latino teenagers confessed to the crime and served full prison terms before serial rapist Matias Reyes admitted his guilt. Recent Yale grad Burns considers not just the case itself but the circumstances that allowed it, in particular, the violence and racial tensions endemic in the city at that time. Expect interest, especially in the New York area; Ken Burns will helm a documentary.
Examination of a 22-year-old crime that resulted in wrongful convictions of five adolescents.
Burns became knowledgeable about the so-called Central Park jogger rape case while studying at Yale University, from which she graduated in 2004. On Apr. 20, 1989, the battered body of a young professional female turned up in the park. Though she was near death after a savage beating and massive blood loss, she survived. In Central Park that night, a group of more than 30 adolescents had been committing lesser but still serious crimes involving violence against men and women. New York City police began focusing on some of the members of that larger group, and decided quickly that probably eight of the young males had participated in the rape. Only one of the youths charged with the crime was age 16 at the time, and police interrogated him without adults present. The interrogators extracted a confession of sorts from the 16-year-old, and used questionable tactics to gain partial admissions of guilt from four others under age 16. A jury convicted three of the youths during one trial, and two other youths at a separate trial. All served hard time in juvenile or adult correctional facilities despite evidence that never added up if looked at dispassionately. Burns reveals astoundingly incompetent police work. Only two days before the infamous sexual assault, another woman had been assaulted in Central Park in a similar manner. Furthermore, the actual perpetrator attracted police notice right away but never underwentmeaningful questioning. If he had not finally confessed while in prison, the five wrongfully convicted defendants might never have seen their reputations cleared. 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 lies infected an entire city.
A superb addition to the growing literature of wrongful convictions.