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

4.1 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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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.

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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: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,102,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This account is very one-sided. The Author claims to be providing the framework of racism during this time period but she presents her own opinions of racism, so called minority crime, and how other people viewed black culture at the time, as fact.

She also distorts the truth about other famous cases such as Bernard Goetz and Eleanor Bumpers. Even somehow finding a way to blame police for shooting Ms. Bumpers when she is the one who lunged at an officer with a knife trying to kill them. She has the audacity to suggest they should have used pepper spray to deter lethal force. Clueless.

The Author wants us to believe that the confession of a serial rapist and psychopath is compelling evidence that Matias Reyes acted entirely alone in the beating and rape of Trisha Meili. His psychiatrist claimed that Matias is not capable of telling the truth and this was a guy who raped his own mother and other women. He had nothing to lose in confessing to this crime, there is no reason to give validity to the fact that he claims he "found religion" and felt bad that others were being accused of a crime he committed by himself.

The truth is that more than one doctor has testified and maintains to this day that the jogger's injuries could not have been from one attacker alone. One of the doctor's testified that she saw hand prints on the jogger's legs indicating she was held down while someone else sexually assaulted her. The truth is that it is very unlikely that one psychopath would have been able to chase down a seasoned runner, hit her to the ground, further assault her, and then drag her farther into a secluded area to rape her.
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