****** SPOILER ALERT ****** In each part of this blog series, I’m going to review/recap each individual episode, then give my thoughts about what I’ve seen. If you have not seen the series and want to watch it, don’t read this post until after you’ve seen Part 2.
This part had even more tension than the previous one. The focus shifted a little and the viewers see more of what the parents had to endure in the process. The episode began with glimpses of the city and news reports playing on TVs and radios. On a small TV at a convenience store, they played a recording of a news report featuring Donald Trump and his $85,000 ad to bring back the death penalty. Raymond, Kevin, and Korey were shown in a holding cell together, waiting for a pre-trial. Raymond and Kevin were both in a juvenile detention center while Korey had to spend his time at Riker’s Island due to being 16 years old. Yusef and Antron were both bailed out by their families. When Yusef and his mother arrived to court, a reporter asked Sharon how she felt about Donald Trump wanting her son to face the death penalty. She immediately became angry and held her son close to her.
The boys’ parents, Antron, and Yusef were sitting at the table discussing the trial. There was tension amongst the parents because they all wanted to prove their boys were innocent, but it was going to be a difficult process. Raymond’s lawyer stated that the judges are usually assigned randomly, but that did not happen with this particular case. The judge handling the case sided with the state 90% of the time. During a conversation with Lederer, Fairstein claimed to have found a sock full of DNA from the boys and wanted to test it right before the trial to catch the defense by surprise.
At the trial, the jury saw photos of the victim. Two witnesses from the park said they were harassed, but one man said the boy who harassed him was not in the courtroom. When the prosecution realized that the DNA they found from the rapist didn’t match any of the boys, Fairstein said that there was a sixth boy who committed the rape and got away.
The victim, Patricia Meili was called as a witness on the stand. As she slowly made her way to the stand, it was obvious that she had been left with permanent injuries. When asked if she had memory of what happened, she said that she did not. From the attack, she lost her sense of smell, has trouble walking, and double vision. After court, Antron’s father met them on the sidewalk and offered them money for the cab, but still didn’t accompany Antron and his mother to the trial. Two detectives were called to the stand, but their stories didn’t match.
In trial, the secret DNA testing of the sock came out. The agent who tested it revealed that the semen sample in the sock didn’t match any of the defendant’s DNA. Once it was revealed that it didn’t match the boys, the court erupted in shock. Elizabeth requested to speak to Antron’s lawyer about a plea deal. Yusef stated that he won’t admit to doing something he didn’t do. The other boys agreed.
While being questioned by Raymond’s attorney, a detective said that Raymond had placed the attack at a completely different part of the park. Antron’s father finally came to the trial. He and Antron had a heated encounter in the bathroom where it becomes evident that Antron has little confidence in his father’s appearance. Antron’s father gets on the stand and tells the court what happened during questioning. He said that he lost his temper and threw a chair when Antron refused to lie. Lederer asked him questions and he struggled on the stand to the point where his statement did more harm than good. The episode ended with the boys hearing guilty verdicts.
This part was even harder to watch than the first and I know it’s only going to get more difficult.
The clips of the detectives talking about the case frustrated me. They were so proud of themselves for coercing the confessions and putting those children in such a terrible position. In my heart, I hoped that more people would be able to see their innocence, but because this is a true story, I knew what the outcome would be.
I got the impression that Fairstein wanted the boys to be punished simply because they were there. When she insisted that the DNA belonged to a sixth boy that got away, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. It didn’t make sense to me that they didn’t explore the possibility that one person was responsible and that one person was still out there, possibly hurting other people. All the time they spent forcing false confessions and trying to prosecute innocent teenagers could have been spent trying to find the actual rapist.
Every kid needs support, and I can’t imagine going through an ordeal like this without my parents by my side. Antron’s father had abstained from being at the trial and claimed that he was “working on some things”. He also stayed out of the house and virtually disappeared from his son’s life until he showed up after half of the trial was already over. He probably didn’t want to see his son there fighting for his innocence and freedom. However, he’d also gotten extremely upset when his son refused to lie about being involved in the rape. I’m not yet sure why he left and can only speculate. When he did show up and get on the witness stand, his absence proved to be a major hindrance. He didn’t know what was going on and was very unprepared for questioning.
The trial really pushed and pulled on my emotions because of the small victories within (sock DNA, confusion of where the rape occurred), but I still knew the verdict was coming. The emotion on the boys’ faces was devastating. Their fates had been decided based on lies and prejudice.