Acclaimed director Ava Duverney took to social media to officially announce the casting call for her upcoming "Central Park Five" mini-series. The Netflix-produced show will depict the ordeal of five young individuals wrongfully accused of raping a jogger in Central Park in 1989, an incident which became one of the most highly publicized crime cases of the 80s.
Duverney and Netflix had confirmed the project in July of 2017, according to Deadline.
"I had an extraordinary experience working with Netflix on "13th" and am overjoyed to continue this exploration of the criminal justice system as a narrative project..." DuVernay said in a statement on Netflix's website. "The story of the men known as the Central Park Five has riveted me for more than two decades. In their journey, we witness five innocent young men of color who were met with injustice at every turn — from coerced confessions to unjust incarceration to public calls for their execution by the man who would go on to be the president of the United States."
Now, Duverney has posted the details of the casting call for the project on Twitter.
The project will cover the events of what became known as the Central Park Jogger case, which began on the night of April 19, 1989, when Trisha Meili, a white female jogger, was raped in New York City. The crime led to the arrest of five young, non-white individuals (Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise) who would go on to claim their confessions were both false and coerced. DNA evidence connecting any of the teens to the crime did not implicate them at all, but in court the evidence was deemed "inconclusive." The teens were nonetheless convicted of the crimes in 1990 and given sentences ranging from 5 to 15 years.
In 2002, Matias Reyes, an incarcerated murderer and serial rapist, confessed to raping Meili. DNA evidence would later confirm his guilt.
The convictions of the five who were wrongly accused were subsequently vacated, leading them to sue New York City in 2003 for malicious prosecution, racial discrimination, and emotional distress. The city refused to settle the suits until 2014, after political opinion on the matter had significantly changed. The decades-long tribulation has sparked national conversations on racial bias within the criminal justice system.
Donald Trump, at the time a socialite and real estate mogul, was one of the loudest voices calling not only for the prosecution but for the death penalty for the five accused. Trump took out full-page advertisements in four major New York newspapers calling for capital punishment for the alleged criminals.
"The problem with our society is the victim has absolutely no rights and the criminal has unbelievable rights ... Maybe hate is what we need if we're gonna get something done," Trump famously quipped in a 1989 Larry King interview.
Lawyers for the accused attempted to argue that Trump's input on the crimes had significantly impacted the case. Trump continued to speak out against the city's settlements with the accused in 2014, leading to protests on his eponymous properties. Throughout the 2016 presidential elections, Trump maintained his position and again proclaimed the men were guilty.
Duverney discussed the series on the "Playback" podcast in March of 2018. She will be both writing and directing the show, which will specifically cover every phase of the case from 1989 to 2014. Each episode explores the life of one of the accused.
Oprah Winfrey is listed as an executive producer on the project, along with Duverney herself, according to Deadline.
Netflix will debut the project some time in 2019, according to Collider.
[Photo: Protestors by DOUG KANTER / Getty Images]