30 years ago,” Ava tweeted, “a woman was raped in Central Park. Five black + brown boys were framed for her rape. The story you know is the lie that police, prosecutors and Donald Trump told you. WHEN THEY SEE US is the story of the boys from their eyes and their hearts.”
Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise, all between 14 and 16 years old, were convicted despite a complete lack of physical evidence tying them to the rape and assault of Trisha Meili. They were demonized in the press, with major newspapers calling them “a wolf pack” and “marauders.”
DuVernay singled out Trump in her promotion for the movie because the then-real estate developer grandly inserted himself into the debacle. During their trials, Donald Trump took out a a full page ad in New York newspapers titled “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY,” writing, “How can our great society tolerate the continued brutalization of its citizens by crazed misfits? Criminals must be told that their CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS!” The convictions were vacated in 2002, after the real rapist confessed and was matched with DNA evidence. In 2014, the city agreed to a $41 million settlement with Santana, Richardson, McCray, Salaam, and Wise, and Trump lashed out again, writing in an op-ed for the New York Daily News that it was a “disgrace” and that “these young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels.” He added, “The recipients must be laughing out loud at the stupidity of the city.”
She cast five little-known actors as the wrongly accused teenagers, and several more recognizable faces can be seen in the powerfully dramatic trailer, including Vera Farmiga as a prosecutor, Joshua Jackson as a defense attorney, and John Leguizamo and Michael Kenneth Williams as the fathers of two defendants.
Netflix will release all four episodes of “When They See Us” on May 31.