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The Central Park Five: A Chronicle of a City Wilding Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 17, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (May 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307266141
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307266149
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #932,826 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“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

“An important cultural document, and unquestionably worth reading…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

“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
“Measured, riveting…The Central Park Five is an important book.” –The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“A riveting retrospective.” –News Blaze 

About the Author

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.

Customer Reviews

The book is thoroughly researched and well written too.
The NYC Police Department, however, still insisted the five men "most likely" participated in the crime, claiming the D.A. was wrong and the confessions were good.
Paul Froehlich
And I hope that people who think they know the story will give her book a read and learn what really happened.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Book Fanatic TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is an easy read and is short (less than 200 pages). It's a good story and I read it in one day and I learned a lot about the 1989 Central Park Jogger rape and beating case. There was absolutely nothing wrong with this book as far as it went, but it wasn't an in-depth analysis. It's basically a historical view of what happened in the crime and how the five accused were wrongly convicted and eventually exonerated. It's a very important story and the book correctly points out how many involved in law enforcement still refuse to admit the five were not guilty (and they clearly weren't). This is a very disturbing problem that doesn't get enough air time.

I learned a lot about the crime that I didn't know and I can't really criticize this book for anything but its light treatment of the topic. This topic deserved twice as much material. So I give 5 stars for what it did do and 3 stars for the fact it didn't get more in-depth. I was left wanting much more.

Having shelled out money for the hardcover version (because I love true crime), I regret that decision. I recommend this book but unless you have money to burn, I recommend getting the paperback or borrowing from a library. It's worth reading it's just not worth $17 to $26 for the hardcover.
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29 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Karen Franklin on March 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Through myriad interviews and legal documents, author Sarah Burns reconstructs the amazing case of the Central Park Jogger, a white investment banker whose brutal victimization galvanized the United States and the world back in 1989. As Burns shows, the physical evidence pointed all along to Matias Reyes, the "East Side Slasher" who was terrorizing women in that vicinity at the time. But with tunnel vision police ignored the obvious and coerced a series of confused confessions out of a group of African American and Latino boys who had been causing trouble in the park that night.

Because he was not identified, even though he was right under the eyes of the police the entire time, Reyes was able to continue his vicious rape spree and even to murder one woman before he was ultimately apprehended. Even then, it didn't occur to police to compare his DNA with that found on Trisha Meili, the jogger. The match was not made until more than a decade later, when Reyes voluntarily confessed and supplied detailed information about the crime.

Burns convincingly describes how racial hysteria overwhelmed all reason. With Donald Trump taking out full-page ads calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty, and media pundits stoking public furor about black-skinned "animals" and "savages" running amok, no one questioned whether police had the right suspects: "Race not only inspired the extreme reactions to the crime; it also made it easier for so many to believe that these five teenaged boys had committed the crime in the first place, and no one was suggesting that they might, in fact, be innocent."

(Actually, a couple of intrepid columnists from New York Newsday, Jim Dwyer and Carol Agus, were expressing public doubts during the trial about the strength of the evidence connecting the youths to the crime, but their voices were not enough to turn the tide of public opinion.)

This is a quick read, and a fascinating story. Highly recommended.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I doubt that my experience of taking in news about the 1989 rape and near-fatal beating of the "Central Park Jogger" is unusual. I remember the incident, and remember horrifying news reports of kids who were arrested for it, kids who were "wilding" (a new term for me), and I remember the kids being found guilty and sent to prison. I remember such things because the crime was spectacular. Less spectacular but just as worrisome is that the kids were innocent, and I have to admit I don't have any distinct memories of how the reversal in their convictions came about. Their exoneration certainly didn't come with huge, scary headlines as the crime and accusations themselves did. How the boys gave their confessions, were found guilty, and then were found to have nothing to do with the crime is the astonishing story within _The Central Park Five: A Chronicle of a City Wilding_ (Knopf) by Sarah Burns. This is Burns's first book; she happens to be the daughter of the documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, and with him will be making a film about the case. The famous crime and punishment have been written about voluminously before, but this is the first book-length evaluation written after the convictions of the boys, now all young men, were vacated. As such, it provokes profoundly disturbing ideas about race relations and police procedures at the time, none of which have changed much in the subsequent years.

Burns sets the geographical, social, and temporal scene of the crime in the financially struggling, crime increasing New York of 1989. The Central Park Five kids, all between fourteen and sixteen years old, who were in the park that night weren't there to work on their merit badges. They were making trouble, harassing and assaulting runners and bikers, throwing stones, and so on.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Maria on October 10, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book recounts the steps that led to a horrible injustice done to five teen aged boys who are referred to as the Central Park 5, who were convicted of raping the Central Park Jogger in 1989, and whose convictions were vacated completely after they served their full sentences. I lived in NY at that time, and the book is a fair recounting of the frenzy around the case as well as the details that led to overturning their convictions. The book and film are the work primarily of Sarah Burns, daughter of documentarian Ken Burns, and show the background research and production values of a Burns project. It's an easy and effective read, and highlights the ineffectiveness of the justice system when it is deliberately perverted by those in control of the process. I used the book and DVD in a class on how racial conflict is presented in the mass media focusing on the racial elements of the story, and found it very effective and balanced. Greater coverage of how the minority media covered the ongoing story would have strengthened the project, since the few references that are included indicate the coverage was very different, and especially since the five teenagers were all members of minority communities. Chapter titles would also have been handy. The whole mess is sad and frustrating and infuriating, and the interviews with the now-grown men reflect the pain and injustice of lives that cannot really be recovered. These kids were put into prison for years when they were not guilty and simply wanted to play baseball, create some art, and go to the prom. The impact of the film and book have been significant; for the first time in about ten years, the NY City government is starting to negotiate with them on compensation for unlawful imprisonment.
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