Everything you need to know about Netflix series When They See Us

The must-watch is based on the crime and trial that made national US headlines for decades.

By Thomas Mitchell
Acclaimed director Ava DuVernay, whose 2014 Martin Luther King biopic Selma was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, turns her focus on the Central Park Five in this compelling series, When They See Us.
Ava created, co-wrote and helmed this beautiful and empathetic four-part series, which recreates the events of the crime and trial that made national US headlines for decades, and humanises the men who had been vilified for so long during their lives.
Here is a breakdown on what you need to know ahead of your binge-watch.

What happened?

On the night of April 19, 1989, a young woman was jogging through Central Park in New York City when she was viciously and brutally sexually assaulted.
It was a night that would change her life, and the lives of many others, forever. Later that same evening, a gang of youths were apprehended.
Eventually, five black and Latino boys – Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise and Raymond Santana – were charged with the crime and became known as the Central Park Five.
Asante Blackk got an Emmy nod for his first ever role, playing young Kevin Richardson.

What happened next?

Following their arrest, the teens (the oldest, Korey, is just 16 years old), are split into two groups. Korey is sent to New York's notorious Rikers Island prison and held in isolation following several beatings.
While awaiting trial, the case builds momentum, quickly highlighting racial and class divisions in American's biggest city.
All five boys maintain their videotaped and written confessions were coerced.None had legal counsel during questioning. Within weeks, they each withdraw their confessions, plead not guilty, and refuse plea deals on the rape and assault charges.
Mickey Joseph (Joshua Jackson) defends Antron (Caleel Harris).

The trial

The five boys were split up into two different trials. The first began on June 25, 1990, and saw defendants Antron, Yusef and Raymond take to the stand. The second took place in October that year, with Korey and Kevin on trial.

The Trump moment

While he's living in the White House these days, Donald Trump, then a Manhattan real-estate tycoon, took out full-page newspaper ads calling for the death penalty to be reinstated in New York state. The Trump ads were seen to have had a big influence on the case.
Yusef Salaam (Ethan Herisse) walks to court with his mum Sharon (Aujanue Ellis).

The conviction

Four of the Central Park Five – Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam and Raymond Santana Jr – spent seven years in prison. Meanwhile Korey Wise, who was tried as an adult, served nearly 13 years.

The exoneration

In 2001, Matias Reyes, a prisoner serving a life sentence, had a newfound faith in religion and confessed to authorities that he had committed the rape and assault. The District Attorney immediately followed up on his claims, with Matias having intimate knowledge of the crime. DNA samples taken from Reyes were an exact match, and in 2003, all five men were exonerated.
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