Netflix drama When They See Us is painful to watch but we must not look away: Verity Lush

A scene from the Netflix drama When They See Us.  Pictured: Joshua Jackson as Mickey Joseph and Caleel Harris as Antron McCray. PA Photo/Netflix/Atsushi Nishijima.
A scene from the Netflix drama When They See Us. Pictured: Joshua Jackson as Mickey Joseph and Caleel Harris as Antron McCray. PA Photo/Netflix/Atsushi Nishijima.

You may or may not have heard of the Central Park 5 but one thing is for certain – if you have, then you cannot help but be moved by the plight of these four men.

On April 19 ,1989, jogger Trisha Meili was brutally attacked in Central Park.

She was both beaten to within an inch of her life and raped, dragged into bushes and left to die. Meili was in a coma for 12 days afterwards.

Four African American teenagers and one Hispanic American teenager were arrested for the attack and were subsequently tried.

However, this prosecution was based on confessions made by the teens under both duress and illegal conditions – going without breaks, without parents or counsel present, without food, and held for hours and hours, until they broke and confessed to whatever the police had told them to.

They each later withdrew these confessions and pleaded not guilty. During the trial, even the semen sample from the rape did not match any of the 5 accused, yet they were found guilty and imprisoned. Including one teen with learning disabilities who was kept in solitary confinement – a punishment that Charles Dickens, back in the 1840s, deemed ‘cruel’ – and that was for grown adults.

The story of these kids has been dramatized and is currently on Netflix. When They See Us is powerful, excruciating in places to watch, and absolutely shattering in terms of what was done to those boys and what they lived through. If you don’t want a spoiler, look away.

In 2001, Matias Reyes, a convicted rapist, admitted to the attack on Meili. His DNA matched that found at the scene and he was adamant that he acted alone.

The sheer injustice of this is very nearly unbearable to watch – particularly the depiction of Linda Fairstein who was the prosecutor on the case.

She has since faced public outcry for her role in essentially forcing children into false confessions and remaining in denial of her responsibility for this enormous miscarriage of justice ever since. It is a powerful piece of history – watch it.

Another gross miscarriage of justice for innocent children

David McGreavy, The Monster of Worcester, was released from prison this month.

If ever there was a stark contrast to the tale of the Central Park 5, this is it. 

The miscarriage of justice in this case lies in the fact this man has actually been released from prison.

In 1973 he killed three siblings; an eight-month-old, a two-year-old and a four year old, each by different methods. He then mutilated their little bodies with a pickaxe before impaling them on the wrought iron fence spikes of their neighbour.

Prison is supposed to reform as well as deter and punish, but sometimes life needs to mean life. It is a disgrace that he is free when those children are not.

A choice between Johnson and Gove for PM? I despair 

Boris Johnson is all over the press this week like a dog on chips.

Journalist and author Carole Cadwalladr made an interesting point when she tweeted that, ‘If Boris Johnson is a feminist, what name would be given to a woman who was running for Tory leadership who’d had two children by two different men while married to a third man who she left for a fourth man, 24 years her junior?’

Between Boris and Gove, I hang my head in my hands. Gove has the wrath of a squillion teachers aimed his way following his crackers education reforms and the damage he wreaked on the system.

And now the cocaine scandal. 

Whatever next?