Ava DuVernay to Tell the Story of ‘Central Park Rapists’

Five young Black and Latino men accused of gang rape — were wrongfully convicted. Donald Trump took out full-page ads to fuel public opinion and doubled down just last year.

Ava DuVernay / REUTERS

Writer and director Ava DuVernay will bring to life the stories of Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise — known as the Central Park Five.

The five Black and Latino teenagers from Harlem were wrongly convicted of viciously assaulting and raping a white woman, Trisha Meili, in New York City’s Central Park in 1989.

“The story of the men known as Central Park Five has riveted me for more than two decades,” DuVernay said in a statement.

The five-episode scripted series created by DuVernay, who received an Academy Award nomination for “Selma” in 2014, will debut on Netflix in 2019. She will also write and direct the production, which exposes the breakdown of the U.S. criminal justice system at every phase of the historic case.

The teens testified detectives coerced them to give confessions, which resulted in almost exclusively providing the basis for their conviction.

In 2002, a serial rapist and murderer named Matias Reyes confessed to the assault, and his DNA linked him to the crime.

There has not been DNA evidence connecting the Central Park Five to any wrongdoing.

Each part of DuVernay’s series will focus on one of the five teenagers. The series will span from the spring of 1989, when each were first questioned about the incident, to 2014 when they were exonerated and a $41 million settlement was reached with the city of New York.

Trump’s Rhetoric on the Central Park Five

“In their journey, we witness five innocent young men of color who were met with injustice at every turn — from coerced confessions to unjust incarceration to public calls for their execution by the man who would go on to be the president of the United States,” DuVernay said.

In 1989, now President Donald Trump placed full-page ads in the four daily papers in New York City, calling for the return of the death penalty and the execution of the teens that he didn’t refer to by name.

“Muggers and murderers,” Trump wrote, “should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes.”

He spent $85,000 on the ads.

The same year, he made an appearance on CNN to talk about the case.

Almost 30 years later, in October when campaigning for the presidency, Trump doubled down on his rhetoric, insinuating the teens, now men, are not innocent of the crime.

“They admitted they were guilty,” Trump said in a statement to CNN’s Miguel Marquez. “The police doing the original investigation say they were guilty. The fact that that case was settled with so much evidence against them is outrageous. And the woman, so badly injured, will never be the same.”

‘13th’ and ‘Queen Sugar’

DuVernay has worked on prior projects that put the criminal justice system under a microscope. The 2017 Academy Award-nominated documentary “13th,” released in 2016, explores how mass incarceration in the United States disproportionately affects African Americans and reflects the injustice of slavery.

Related Story

Ava DuVernay's '13th' Makes Comparison Between Slavery, Mass Incarceration

Ava DuVernay’s ‘13th’ Makes Comparison Between Slavery, Mass Incarceration

Along with analyzing the state of the criminal justice system, the documentary takes a look at what "Make America Great Again" really means.

“I had an extraordinary experience working with Netflix on ‘13th’ and am overjoyed to continue this exploration of the criminal justice system as a narrative project with Cindy Holland and the team there,” DuVernay said.

The Central Park Five series will be executive produced by Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King from Participant Media, Jane Rosenthal and Berry Welsh from Tribeca Productions, DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey/Harpo Films.

Winfrey is also an executive producer of the TV show “Queen Sugar,” created and directed by DuVernay. The contemporary drama airing on OWN is based on Natalie Baszile’s novel and explores the African American experience through the lives of the estranged Bordelon siblings in Saint Josephine, La.

“Queen Sugar” cast members participated in a panel discussion at the American Black Film Festival in Miami last month. Timon Kyle Durrett said the show’s all-female directorial team represents “a long-awaited balance” in the entertainment industry.

Kofi Siriboe discussed why he thinks “Queen Sugar” is of importance to African Americans.

Read more news @ DiversityInc.com

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  • I thoroughly enjoyed viewing the episodes of Queen Sugar, Not only does it shows an estranged African American family`s individuality but willingness to coming together to fulfil their fathers wish for the land he left them. Can`t wait for the future episodes… Well done
    Ms. DuVermay…Look forward to more ….Thank you…

  • antonio rollins

    This article goes to the heart of how some in our society view the criminal justice system here in America. Even with irrefutable evidence of the innocence of the so called Central Park Five, President Trump still would rather see them executed. Truly amazing! What else might he do now that he is in the most powerful office in the world?

    • The entire NYPD, whose members form a large voting block in that city, felt the same.

  • Why is this article titled “Central Park Rapists”? These men were exonerated and are not rapists. As you stated they were known as the Central Park Five Rapists? Really?!

    • Greg Thrasher

      I agree with your position here and I encourage you to join with me and advocating with Luke to change his posture here

  • Should the title say, Central Park Five in stead of the Central Park Rapist?

    • It was my decision to use the description in use by the press and Donald Trump at the time. My intention is highlight the ugly language used by thr REAL perpetrators, the New York Police Department. If you want to see evidence that the illegal persecution of Blacks and Latinos was systematic and systemic, I invite you to look up Detective Louis Scarcella – a serial criminal, who stole decades of people’s lives, and who apparently is still protected by the state.



      Making the language “pretty” only protects state sanctioned criminals.

        • Greg Thrasher

          Yet words matter in America. I encourage you to join me an advocate with Luke to change his posture here


      • Ok, okay. I was wondering about why that title was used, since all five of the men were cleared of any wrongdoing. Which trumpf should know if he ever bothered to read about the case (which I seriously doubt he ever has.) Both DuVernay’s documentary “13th” and Ken Burns’ “The Central Park Five” are must-see documentaries,btw.

        • He’s being protected behind the blue line. Too many people will be embarrassed by the truth – judges, lawyers, prosecutors, district attorneys, politicians. Many innocent people went to prison – hundreds of years in prison. Scarcella walks the streets – and anyone has to wonder why people run from the police?

      • I Appreciate your Honesty . Honesty is the paved road to justice . Everything else is a Lie and we All know what that leads too . Awful Schools , Pipelines to Prison , Jury Selection , Bad Procecutors , Dishonest Policing , Awful Police Training , Shots Fired , Mistrust , Private Prisons , Stop and Frisk , Dishonest Media Reporting and so on . We All need to Speak Truth into the atmosphere and stop with the Lies that has Exonerated so many thousands of innocent victims yet has Still Imprisoned So Many More .

      • Greg Thrasher

        I disagree with your posture here Luke to continue to used this same verbiage endorses and continues to demonize these innocent men who clearly were not rapists.

        Words matter in America especially words that impose negativity , criminally and inhumanity when attached to Black Americans.

        There is nothing petty about validating and affirming hate speech which is exactly what this verbiage does to these innocent Black men.

        I will never use this verbiage Luke in my body of work on this topic. I hope you will reconsider your posture here.


      • Greg Thrasher

        Agreed but not at the expense of those who were demonize by this injustice.

        I encourage you to advocate me to have Luke change his posture here


    • Greg Thrasher

      I agree with you 10000%. Please do not give up on your principled position here. I encourage you to join me and advocate to Luke to change his posture here


  • We’ll be watching Ava ! She’s so good at what she does ! I appreciate her honesty , integrity , honesty , intricacy and her willness to tell the story from the five guys point of view that were wrongfully accused of the crime .

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