It only seemed right to give my concluding thoughts of the four-part film after giving my opening thoughts at the beginning. I really didn’t expect to be so emotional while watching this. My heart wanted this to be a fictional story, but my mind knew that this was real. I cried because it was real. I cried because these men lost years of their lives for something they didn’t do. I cried because they didn’t get to have experiences they were supposed to have at that age. They didn’t get to go to prom, graduate with their classmates, or just hang out with friends. They couldn’t enjoy being young and carefree because that was taken from them. These are simple things that I had taken for granted, but I’m sure they would have cherished those experiences if they’d known how quickly they could have been taken away.
I think many people have the same question after watching this. Why did it have to be them? I’m not sure we’ll ever get an answer to that question considering the fact that the prosecution still believes they are guilty. I believe the only way we’ll get an answer is to this question is if the prosecution acknowledges this mistake and explains what happened. Seeing as how Linda Fairstein and Elizabeth Lederer have been under fire since this came out, I don’t think it would be a bad idea for them to admit where they went wrong. Fairstein claims “When They See Us” is full of lies and Lederer has resigned from Columbia law.
You know what really bothers me about this? After all of the struggling and suffering these men faced, they will never be completely innocent. Even after being exonerated by the confession of the man who truly did it, there will always be people in the world who will look at them and think they deserved to be convicted. Being tied to the crime in the first place has raised some suspicions that will never go away. There are people who think that even if they didn’t attack her, they were up to no good anyway. Despite the evidence (or lack thereof), they will never be totally free from this. They will carry it for the rest of their lives.
This experience is probably very difficult to talk about, but I’m proud of them for sharing their story with the world. I hope it starts more conversations about just how often these tragic situations happen in our legal system.
All photos used in this article are from a CBS Sunday Morning report titled “The Central Park Five: A cautionary tale of injustice”.