Incidently, the case from 1989 arrived over 55 years after the injustice of Scottsboro, which later became a Broadway Musical that was darker (in mood) than even Phantom of the Opera. It sucks to be a ghost in love with a living woman, but it was even worse to be one of those transients falsely accused by a crime that never happened. Accused by a young girl who used her virtue of her gender and her skin color to throw nine young men and boys into the slammer because they were not only drifters, but because they were black!
Fifty years later the lessons of Scottsboro were not learned when a group of NYPD cops and then a group of prosecutors charged five young men of color for raping a white woman, though in reality the woman was actually raped by a single white guy. It took many years for this reality to emerge just as it had with Scottsboro, when the reality of injustice leads to a sense of closure.
It was iron that the Scottsboro case ended up on Broadway not far away from Central Park, where the similar miscarriage of justice for five other teens occurred. The same denials, the same pain of rejection, the same reality of prison and then the sudden realization that a mistake occurred. It is simply ironic a coincidence. Also ironic that the last survivor from those nine youngsters died in 1989, the year of the Central Park Jogger and a echo of injustice. Also ironic that the case in Scottsboro occurred on Mar. 25, 1931.
Olen Montgomery (age 17), Clarence Norris (age 19), Haywood Patterson (age 18), Ozie Powell (age 16), Willie Roberson (age 16), Charlie Weems (age 16), Eugene Williams (age 13), and brothers Andy (age 19) and Roy Wright (age 12)... nine young men or boys if one looks at the ages. They did not deserve to be condemned like the six young men by the mere accusations of one woman (two in the Scottsboro case).
This case made a mockery of the system. It made it harder for real rape victims to be taken seriously for many years. Scottsboro and Central Park makes a citizen doubt a rape case every time it comes up when the only evidence is the woman's word. Neither gender needs to be violated. Neither should be ruined by a false accuasation of a violatation that either was committed by someone else or did not even happen.
Every time I read "To Kill a Mockingbird" or watch the 1962 movie, I cannot forget that Scottsboro was one of the main inspirations of Harper Lee's masterpiece. Incidentally, I was mere teenager in 1989 when I read the novel and saw the movie for the first time. Mayella Ewell's tirade in the trial scene... one could see this five decades later when that young woman would go along with the cops in their accusations after that incident she hardly remembered but whote a book about.
So that case in 1989 proved long-held prejudices die hard. Mistakes on top of mistakes! Multiple suspects who were not white were on full display, thus more ink than is granted to any rape case outside the celebrity pages. Convictions that seemed like closure only to be overturned when the truth comes out that the real suspect was a man well-known by the justice system in that fair city. The only question left unanswered in NYC and Scottsboro is why.
Possible answers for why for both communities is many. Being a minority is only one. Maybe being young is another. Being at the wrong place at the wrong time is yet another.
I could only imagine if Broadway would ever get around to staging the Central Park case. It would not be like the Scottsboro musical but the genre would be a cross of rap, R&B and Urban with a touch of eighties popular music from a broad prospective with a theme of injustice, redemption and healing from a painful episode in NYC's vast history. Like the 2010 Scottsboro musical, it may be not popular, but do not underestimate the imagination and creativity of the theatrical community.
NYC may had not been rural Scottsboro, but what their police and lawyers did was similar. Lessons to be learned from both tragedies. Ken Burns was right on both. I just hope to see the documentries on both cases back to back one day.