Top 10 Things When They See Us Got Factually Right & Wrong



Top 10 Things When They See Us Got Factually Right & Wrong

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
You may be surprised by the things that “When They See Us Got Right and Wrong.” For this list, we'll be looking at aspects of this Netflix limited series that are true to the real-life Central Park Five case, as well as a few creative liberties that were taken. Our countdown includes Korey Wise had a transgender sister, Matias Reyes confessed, Donald Trump's ad, and more!
It’s time to dig deep into this must-see miniseries. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Things That “When They See Us” Got Right & Wrong.

For this list, we’ll be looking at aspects of this Netflix limited series that are true to the real-life Central Park Five case, as well as a few creative liberties that were taken.

#10: Korey Wise Had a Transgender Sister

In a show full of devastating moments, one of the biggest gut-punches comes when Korey Wise learns about the murder of his transgender sister Marci. “Korey really did have a sister who transitioned,” according to Isis King, who portrays Marci in the series. Delores Wise, played by Niecy Nash, did struggle to accept her daughter’s gender identity, kicking her out of the house. Marci shared a close bond with her younger brother, however. Since Marci’s name was misreported by the police, the exact nature of her murder remains a mystery to the public. Nevertheless, director Ava DuVernay reportedly worked closely with the Wise family to honor her memory. The depiction of Marci was well-received by Vanity Wise, Korey’s younger sister who’s also transgender.

#9: Why Raymond Santana Went Out

In the miniseries, young Raymond Santana, played by Marquis Rodriguez, simply decides to go out with his friends on April 19, 1989, the same night the Central Park jogger case erupted. “When They See Us” does hint at a tragic bit of irony from Raymond’s story, though. It was his father, portrayed by John Leguizamo, who encouraged Raymond to go to the park that ill-fated evening. Raymond Santana Sr. apparently thought the park would be a safer environment for his son than the streets of New York. Unfortunately, this suggestion would change the course of their lives forever. In a 2019 interview, Raymond described his relationship with his father as “good.” However, Raymond believes his dad “still probably blames himself, but he doesn’t speak about it.”

#8: Where Yusef Salaam & Korey Wise Got Picked Up

The show depicts Korey Wise, played by Jharrel Jerome, as an innocent kid who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is true, although the place is changed in the miniseries. In the first episode, Korey is seen on the street with Yusef Salaam, played by Ethan Herisse. When the cops pick up Yusef, Korey agrees to accompany his friend to the precinct. In reality, Korey informed Yusef that the police were searching for him. The two retreated to Yusef’s apartment, but the detectives were already waiting outside the front door. While the location is altered, the scene otherwise stays true to what actually happened. The cops led Korey to believe that he wasn’t on the suspect list, motivating him to tag along.

#7: The Authorities Called the Central Park Five “Animals”

Throughout the miniseries, the authorities repeatedly call the five male suspects “animals.” In the Ken Burns documentary, “The Central Park Five,” Kevin Richardson recounted his violent arrest, saying that he was frightened by the cops and tried to run. Richardson remembers being subsequently tackled and hit with a police helmet. When Richardson asked what was going on, he recalled that an arresting officer referred to him as a “little animal.” This seemed to indicate that the authorities had already deemed Kevin guilty before even questioning him. In addition to law enforcement, journalists and demonstrators frequently described the five as “animals.” Reporters also wrongfully tossed around hate-filled words like “bloodthirsty,” “savages,” and “human mutations.”

#6: Antron McCray’s Dad Told Him to Lie

In one of the miniseries’ most shocking scenes, Bobby McCray, played by Michael K. Williams, desperately yells at his son Antron, played by Caleel Harris. Bobby instructs Antron to do whatever the cops say so he can go home. Although Antron pleads his innocence, his father pressures him into giving the authorities the answers they want. This is sadly all too true. While Bobby later testified in his son’s defense, the case was too much for him to handle and he abandoned his family. Antron once looked up to his father as his friend and hero, but not anymore. Speaking of his father years later, Antron said, “Sometimes I love him. Most of the time, I hate him.” Antron never forgave Bobby for failing him.

#5: Rioting in Central Park

The Central Park Five were wrongfully convicted for the atrocities Trisha Meili endured. “When They See Us” makes this clear, although a few unflattering details are overlooked, specifically about Raymond Santana. When the five were finally cleared in 2002, Raymond reportedly confessed to committing a mugging at the park that night, whereas in the show, Raymond is depicted as a completely innocent bystander who flees when the night turns violent. Some outlets argue that the miniseries underplayed the April 19 riot, noting that over 30 youths reportedly took part in aggressive crimes, for which dozens were arrested, and the five could’ve been involved. The show mostly chalks this up to some kids harmlessly heckling cyclists and a select few throwing punches at each other before the cops arrive.

#4: Linda Fairstein Was Mainly to Blame

Prosecutor Linda Fairstein was indeed persistent in her pursuit of the five, despite the lack of DNA evidence. Yet, some have questioned Felicity Huffman’s vilifying portrayal, claiming that it simplifies an injustice that was about more than one prosecutor. While some authority figures called the five “animals,” there are no records confirming that Fairstein used this kind of bigoted language. Fairstein insists in the miniseries that justice was served even as the five are being exonerated. In 2002, Faistein did say, “I think Reyes ran with that pack of kids.” After the miniseries came out, though, Fairstein wrote in a Wall Street Journal article that she now agrees Matias Reyes acted alone. However, she maintains her belief that the five committed other crimes that night.

#3: Matias Reyes Confessed

It may sound like a storytelling device, but Matias Reyes did reportedly fight with Korey over a TV while incarcerated at Rikers Island. After encountering Korey again years later, Matias confessed that the five had been wrongfully convicted for what he solely did to Trisha Meili back in 1989. Upon further investigation, the authorities found that Matias’ DNA matched the crime scene’s evidence. The crime not only aligned with his profile, but Matias also provided insight that only the attacker could’ve known about. While some have debated why he finally took responsibility after all this time, Matias claims that he wanted to do the right thing upon finding Jesus in prison. This is also the explanation that “When They See Us” provides.

#2: Donald Trump’s Ad

Well, we fact-checked and this detail is anything but fake news. Throughout the Central Park jogger trial, many expressed their desire to see the five convicted, including the future 45th president of the United States. Donald Trump didn’t just want them behind bars, however. In May 1989, he took out a full-page ad in four New York newspapers with the headlines, “Bring back the death penalty” and “bring back our police!” Trump further wrote, “I want to hate these murderers and I always will. I am not looking to psychoanalyze or understand them, I am looking to punish them.” Even thirty years later, long after the five were exonerated, Trump refused to apologize for the ad, saying, “You have people on both sides of that.”

#1: The Central Park Five’s Confessions Were Coerced

According to The Innocence Project, roughly 25% of exonerated convicts admitted to crimes they didn’t commit. Watching this miniseries, you’ll understand why. While certain details have been debated, the authorities did ultimately coerce the five into accepting blame for Trisha Meili’s attack. They reportedly achieved this through various scare tactics, depriving the boys of food and sleep. Their parents weren’t present throughout these interrogations and after nearly 30 hours combined, the boys just wanted to go home. Four of the boys all had their coerced statements videotaped with their parents present, with one of them supposedly only confessing verbally, but this was still used against him. Although they asserted their innocence going forward, it’d be thirteen years until the Central Park Five could call themselves the Exonerated Five.