On a rampage

The crime was horrific: Called “wilding” by the cops, it was a rampage of vandalism and assault by a group of young black and Latino men across Central Park. A well-to-do young white woman was found raped and beaten almost to death in the vicinity; the youths, some as young as 13, confessed. But the confessions were coerced, and the evidence didn’t match the narrative that emerged from the police and the media. Eventually, the young men—after years in prison—were exonerated and released. Sarah Burns takes a solid narrative look at the crime that horrified New York—and the rest of the nation—in 1989, and asks some hard questions about whether anything has changed in what we expect and believe to be true about crime in the intervening three decades. The Central Park Five: A Chronicle of a City Wilding does some serious historical and cultural work as it revisits all our assumptions.