Rebalancing the extra-judicial scales: Documentary aesthetics and the legacy of the Central Park Five
Baliño Rios, Sofia
The Central Park jogger case has returned to news headlines with the 2019 Netflix mini-series When They See Us, a dramatised account of the original trials. It has reignited debate over the injustices faced by the Black community in the United States, and led to lawsuits and job resignations on the part of former police investigators and prosecutors. Since the case’s inception, issues of race, media reporting, economics, and the identity of New York City have influenced the trial and its aftermath and have inspired documentaries, books, and the landmark 1990 essay “Sentimental Journeys” by Joan Didion. In this article, I argue that the creators of two of these works, by testing the boundaries of narrative, demonstrate that the case was inexorably tainted by a pervasive feeling of social precarity and racial prejudice which cost five young men several years of their lives, and offer a productive line of enquiry for acknowledging such factors and their influence, if not resolving them.