Netflix its drawing praise for its min-series "When They See Us," a true story about five black and Latino teenagers who were wrongfully convicted of the 1989 rape of a white woman jogger in New York's Central Park.
After they had served six to 13 years in prison, serial rapist and murderer Matias Reyes confessed to the crime, and they were exonerated. Still, questions remained unanswered about whether and why they were with a mob of adolescents who were terrorizing people in the park.
The Netflix series reportedly (I haven't seen it) fails to address the question, and plenty of other questions have been raised about the accuracy of the series that makes the five appear to be total innocents, victims of outrageous police and prosecutor brutality.
The alleged inaccuracies hasn't stop the the sanctification of the five, as Oprah was the latest to jump on board to ratify the story of unbelievable injustice akin to apartheid in South Africa.
But hear the other side. Linda Fairstein,Linda Fairstein, the prosecutor in the case, lays out a startling list of fabrications, inaccuracies, distortions and exaggerations the series allegedly commits. In her Wall Street Journal opinion piece, "Netflix’s False Story of the Central Park Five: Ava DuVernay’s miniseries wrongly portrays them as totally innocent—and defames me in the process," Fairstein elaborates:
[What has been has missed is] the larger picture of that terrible night: a riot in the dark that resulted in the apprehension of more than 15 teenagers who set upon multiple victims. That a sociopath named Matias Reyes confessed in 2002 to the rape of Ms. Meili, and that the district attorney consequently vacated the charges against the five after they had served their sentences, has led some of these reporters and filmmakers to assume the prosecution had no basis on which to charge the five suspects in 1989. So it is with filmmaker Ava DuVernay in the Netflix miniseries “When They See Us,” a series so full of distortions and falsehoods as to be an outright fabrication.
It shouldn’t have been hard for Ms. DuVernay to discover the truth. The facts of the original case are documented in a 117-page decision by New York State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Galligan, in sworn testimony given in two trials and affirmed by two appellate courts, and in sworn depositions of more than 95 witnesses—including the five themselves. Instead she has written an utterly false narrative involving an evil mastermind (me) and the falsely accused (the five).
I was one of the supervisors who oversaw the team that prosecuted the teenagers apprehended after that horrific night of violence. Ms. DuVernay’s film attempts to portray me as an overzealous prosecutor and a bigot, the police as incompetent or worse, and the five suspects as innocent of all charges against them. None of this is true.
What we do know is that Ava DuVarney’s tendentious retelling of the story is not only infuriatingly dishonest in intent, but also ridiculously clumsy in execution. We can only speculate about the rationale behind some of her choices as writer and director. We see the group of boys striding merrily through the park. Three white cyclists dash through the group as if expecting it to simply move out of their way. A racist microaggression? “Fight the Power” is playing in the background. In the next scene some of the boys witness unidentified black men beat up a white man. The victim is wearing a camouflage jacket and appears defiant. Were they blocking his way, or was he looking for a fight? And why does DuVarney feel the need to have someone say “bunch of white dudes jumped me in the Bronx last week. Payback’s a bitch”?
Those are heavy accusations. But from the history of how Hollywood is a herd driven by a simplistic, ill-informed, lopsided and nasty ideology, I tend to believe the criticisms.