'When They See Us' honors real Central Park 5 at Emmys

Jharrel Jerome accepts the award for outstanding lead actor in a limited series or movie for "When They See Us" at the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

The searing TV series about the plight of the Central Park Five created a memorable Emmy moment Sunday when the five exonerated men stood and were honored at the awards show

NEW YORK — The searing TV series on the plight of the Central Park Five created a memorable Emmy moment Sunday when the five exonerated men stood and were honored at the awards show.

The four-part Netflix series explores the true story of five black and Latino teenagers from Harlem who were coerced into confessing to a rape they didn't commit in 1989 and follows them over the course of 25 years to their eventual exoneration.

Show creator Ava DuVernay lost in the directing and writing categories but Jharrel Jerome won for best lead actor in a limited series.

"I feel like I should just be in the Bronx right now, just chilling, waiting for my mom's cooking. But I am here in front of my inspirations," said Jerome, a New Yorker whose mother told him about this ugly chapter in city history.

He then acknowledged the Central Park Five — Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise — who had been invited.

"This is for Raymond, Yusef, Antron, Kevin, and King Korey Wise. Thank you so much, it's an honor. It's a blessing," said Jerome.

Some of the men raised fists in the air, while others, including Wise, had tears in their eyes. Jerome played Wise in the series.

The case of the Central Park Five cut the city along racial lines from the outset, with the victim being a young white woman. It drew worldwide attention.

It took years for the five to be exonerated, and they spent most of their youth in prison. Another man later confessed to the attack.

The series has had real-life consequences for former "Central Park Five" prosecutor Linda Fairstein. Fallout from the Netflix show has led to her being dropped by her book publisher, Dutton. Fairstein also resigned as a Board of Trustees member at Vassar College and from the victims-services agency, Safe Horizon.

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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