Ava DuVernay, Netflix Plot Central Park Five Series

Limited series will devote individual episodes to each of the wrongfully convicted teenagers

Ava DuVernay will write and direct a limited series for Netflix about the Central Park Five. Credit: David Bebber/The Times/News Syndication/Redux

Ava DuVernay will write and direct a limited series about the Central Park Five for Netflix. The five-episode drama is set to premiere on the video streaming service in 2019.

DuVernay previously worked with Netflix on the documentary 13th, which explored race and justice in America following the prohibition of slavery as deemed by the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at this year's ceremony.

"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. "The story of the men known as 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."

Each episode of the series will focus on each specific teenager and their upbringing of Harlem through their wrongful conviction, release and achievement of a long awaited settlement from the city of New York as awarded by Mayor Bill de Blasio. The five men — four black and one Hispanic — had been accused of assaulting, raping and sodomizing 28-year-old Trisha Meili who had been jogging around Central Park during the evening of April 19, 1989. Each man spent six to 13 years in prison before Matias Reyes came forward in 2002, confessing to be the sole rapist in the case. The Central Park Five sued New York City in 2003 with the city refusing to settle under then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg until de Blasio supported their claims and they were awarded $41 million.

DuVernay's statement also refers to President Donald Trump's involvement in the case as a vocal proponent of the Central Park Five receiving the death penalty. He took out full-page advertisements in all four of the city's major newspapers. Trump has retained this opinion for nearly three decades, bringing up the case while on the campaign trail and refuting the innocence of the freed men.