The Netflix Inc just premiered When they see us – a story about five men of colour who wrongfully convicted of raping a jogger in New York’s Central Park in 1989.
The story follows the investigation, the conviction and the subsequent exoneration of the five teenagers - four African-American and one Hispanic. Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Korey Wise confessed after lengthy police interrogations. The victim was a white female.
Soon after, each of them recanted the testimony by insisting that they were forced to confess through police coercion. But they were convicted and sentence from six to 13 years of imprisonment.
In 2002, their convictions were overturned after another man confessed to the crime when DNA tests confirmed his guilt. The Central Park Five settled a lawsuit worth $41 million in 2014.
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, the five men said the Netflix series may have revived the pain but it brought a sense of redemption. Commonly known as the “Central Park Five”, they expressed gratefulness over the four-episode series making them seem humane and highlight the injustice.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Richardson. “Watching this is painful, but it’s necessary. It needs to be watched.”
“It brought back a lot of pain. I thought I was over it,” said McCray as he broke into tears. He said he did not feel any sense of redemption and suffered from the trauma of being falsely accused and imprisoned.
“Even to this day, I’m damaged. I need help. I know it,” said McCray. He added that he had rejected his wife’s advise to seek therapy. “The system broke a lot of things that can’t be fixed.”
McCray said he blamed his father still for urging him to a crime he had not committed. “I hate him. My life is ruined.”
Meanwhile, Salaam believes the series will help people “realize that we didn’t have to go through this. This is how the system, despite the wheels of justice, mowed us down.”
He said used to walk around with head down but now he was “proudly raising” his head.
Oprah, who is also an executive producer of the series, said the world had known the men as “a derogatory headline for decades” but now she hoped they would be known as “the exonerated five.”