Part 2 consist of the trial for the Exonerated five. In this episode, we see the experiences that the young men go through when their parents hire lawyers in order to defend their cases. I did like how the NYPD spied on these boys and their lawyers to see who they were going up against. This being captured for the viewer I mean. This scene gave us an outside perspective on what the prosecution was thinking when they saw them. Elizabeth Lederer finding out who she was going up against in explaining that these lawyers are hungry and looking for their opportunity was what intrigued me. The Recognition that this woman has of these lawyers attempting to get their name out reveals the fact that she knows she may lose this case. And the contrast between the Arrogant white man telling her about these different lawyers and her understanding that these are nobody to look over reveals the severity of this case.
When watching the meeting I carefully looked at everybody and observed where they stood in regards to the case. There was a large divide within the room. The boys were innocent, they just wanted to be free and mostly they stuck together. But when it came to the adults, things got messy. Yusef’s mother asked for a separate trial, and then everybody started arguing and bantering about their children and defending them. It was sad watching everyone go against each other, This type of imagery reminds me of the crabs in the bucket mentality. However, it also just shows Human Nature, that we as people are looking to defend ourselves before anyone else when our backs are against the wall. Yusef’s mother just wanted a single trial for her son, because the rest of their sons had signed off on confessions. Yusef’s mother had gotten to him before he signed the confession so he didn’t have the same case as the others technically. So she’s probably got a better case, and she was trying to defend her son.
Every parent knew the severity of this case they knew something serious was going to happen to their children. And Yusef’s mother just wanted to make sure he wasn’t going to jail for a long time. The different lawyers struck me a little bit. The only true competent lawyer was the white one, Joshua Jackson’s character. The rest of them seem like they didn’t know what they were doing or just out of place. Such as Blair Underwood’s character who was a divorce lawyer, or Raymond Santana’s lawyer who just barely spoke during the meeting. It almost seemed like he was going to fail them in the end. When looking at this scene you felt the uncomfortable feeling of despair, you felt like these boys were definitely going to lose especially with the divide that these lawyers had.
Something that has to be pointed out with this was the attention to detail they put into Donald Trump’s involvement in the Central Park jogger case. For those who knew about the Central Park jogger case before this film came out, you know that Donald Trump had his own campaign to bring back the death penalty against the Central Park five. I believe it was even highlighted during his presidential campaign that this is what something he did. This is our president here in 2019. This movie definitely painted a black cloud over his image, (if there wasn’t one already) but did it really doing anything at this moment in time? Donald Trump placed an $85,000 campaign to bring out the death penalty for five, 16 and under year old boys for a crime they did not commit. He said a plethora of vile things about these children. But the worst was to attempt to sentence them to death for something he had no idea about.
I loved Sharonne Salaam, Aka, Aunjanue Ellis, In This Moment. The scene between her and her friend, and she explains that Trump is trying to “kill my baby”, this can resonate with any black mother. Any mother, or parents. To see someone with the intent to want to murder your child, or wants your child executed. Knowing that your child is innocent, knowing that this person could have such fervor in wishing wish death upon your child, is a feeling that no one should ever have or want to have. The sheer emotion and setting of this scene set the tone for this entire episode. It’s a sad moment.
Another concept I want to highlight in this episode was when Yusef was in the car with his mother in the pastor Discussing the trial. At one point Yusef says “this isn’t fair” and his mother laughs and looks at the pastor and says “Fair”. This moment here shows how one’s innocence is stripped from them as a child. Being made aware that as a young black man, you are no one’s child. Being told through the harshest means, that you are seen as adults, animals, second class citizens. In this manner, you could see the hurt in Yusef’s eyes. You can feel the loss of Hope when he says “ this isn’t fair”. How many of us have felt this? How many of us have been victims of a system that unfairly treats us as criminals before we are innocent? This was what you felt what he said those choice words.
Now to the meat of this entire episode, the trial. The trial was split into two parts, Yusef, Antron, and Raymond were in one trial. Korey and Kevin were the other. The trial was long and fairly entertaining. From the first bits of the scene when both Lederer and Joseph met in the elevator and Joseph asked Lederer to have a Fair trial. I like the little laugh that Elizabeth made when she heard Joseph ask her that. As if she was sitting here thinking Fair? There’s nothing fair about this trial, from its Inception to its conclusion there was nothing Fair. And for Joseph to assume that Lederer would play fair was an adolescent ideal.
When the trial started you can see the differences in all the lawyers. Joseph, confident, collected and prepared to go to war against the city of New York. Blair Underwood’s character Bobby Burns showed his inexperience in the opening remarks of the trial. He used a lot of “umms”. it was a great way to reveal to the audience that he had never done a case such as this and that he was fairly inexperienced in this type of Court. His nerves were visible. I felt uncanny excitement when I saw Raymond Santana’s lawyer show up in this court case. He was quiet and reserved when we were first introduced to him, but his opening remarks were astounding. It was as if we were looking at a completely different person, and it gave us confidence that this case may be better than we expected.
I just want to say a note, the acting, in this case, makes you believe that these young boys might have won the case. However knowing the outcome, you just sat and watched as every attempt they tried was for non in the end. Being in that moment you were rooting for them, you were hoping that the outcome was different. That these lawyers would pull through and in some alternative reality would show up and these boys will be proven not guilty. However, those that know the case, know that this isn’t the reality. I know that hope was just heartbreaking, it made your soul shake, and goosebumps rise all over your skin, your chest tightens up and your eyes water down watching these boys fight for their lives. The worst part of watching this entire episode was watching Antron’s father not being present for the majority of the trial. Plagued with grief and regret forcing his son to make a false confession, his father tried to be as distant as possible during the trial. And watching Antron be torn by his father’s lack of presence tore him apart. It was a terrible sight to see. Of all times you choose this moment to fade? Because of your own guilt? Your son needed you and time after time you allowed the system and police to intimidate you. As if that wasn’t your son. The real Antron explained his trauma and his pain from his father turning against him. It shows how he and his father eventually became distant. What made it worse was that his father tried to save the day and defend his son, only to get his words and actions Twisted against him in the trial. You can sit there and think twofold when it comes to this moment. Saying that the father deserves this type of lashing from Lederer, but at the same time feeling bad for the black man that had to turn against his child. I mean this in the most honest way. Seeing someone have their words twisted, and having his hopes for saving his son get turned against him at that moment must have been heartbreaking for a father.
And then watching and child’s mother look in disgust at her husband as she learned the truth as to what he did to her son what’s the most gut-wrenching moment you can think of. Then it was Antron’s look of disappointment is father, here you go trying to save the day again and making everything worse is all I can think of. The father just looked hopelessly as he saw in his son’s eyes he has sealed his fate. At this moment, I could not feel Sympathy for the father but I did understand. As a black man, you feel fear for your life constantly when it comes to the system. And you only wanted to do what was best for your son, what you thought was best. Yet your ignorance leads you to fail both you and your child. To a certain extent that is your fault, at the same time that is people taking advantage of a system that was designed to destroy you. This concept Hurts the Most, and what was the most conflicting part for me. Still, the child’s father deserves no sympathy from anybody.
Something I want to highlight during the trial, was when Korey wise when he was up at the witness stand. I couldn’t help but feel his pain and confusion when he wanted to stop being questioned when He begged and pleaded the judge to have Lederer stop asking him questions. On top of that, being forced to read when he couldn’t it was heartbreaking. Being made to proceed made me clench my teeth as I try not to scream at my TV. All I wanted to do was cry as I watch this young man get interrogated and also have his words and actions Twisted against him. You can see all the faith dwindle in his eyes as Lederer sat there and turned on him and interrogated him. Throughout this entire series, Korey saw that the people he thought he could trust turned against him use everything he said he was told to say against him. And as a child, you can’t fathom how someone could be so maniacal Towards you. And for Lederer who knew what she was doing was wrong, no sympathy for you. She even had a moment with Fairnstien before the end of the trial, she nearly cried because she knew that these were boys. And she had to go along with the case. She had to throw aside any type of moral obligation and continue to prosecute these children. it was exhausting to watch, exhilarating but exhausting.
Feeling the climax of this case rising to a boiling point, and seeing the fear in these young boys eyes. Especially Korey’s. How long has it been since he’s been home? You could see his hopes of going home slip away. Saying I don’t want to answer any more questions, and being unable to not answer the questions being thrown at him can only bring so much despair to somebody’s heart.
Then came the verdict, watching each and every one of those boys names get called, being told that they were guilty broke my heart. The scene was powerful, I love to the focal point on each and every one of their faces seeing their emotions and all the Hope being drained from their lives. The Part where Kevin Richardson is on the street and having him play his trumpet, and the drowning music being played over it was an excellent use of visuals by Ava Duvernay. This highlighted the severity of the moment and drew in the perspective of how devastating these young children were that their freedom was taken away. Being stripped of their childhood for something they had nothing to do with had to be put on full display and emphasized and Duvenray did this masterfully.
Then to watch the boys take off their ties and shoelaces and embrace each other as they knew their lives were over. Another black boy lost. Like Emmitt Till, Like so many young black men and women who are wrongfully coerced and convicted of crimes they did not commit. This is what they see when they see us, Criminals. Not children who have dreams, like Kevin, who as I said before was playing his trumpet in the street in a tear-jerking sound. The life being drained from this scene was so powerful that anyone that could resonate with these boys and couldn’t help but cry. When they see us, they see this, guilty before Innocent. For Korey wise, He wasn’t charged with every charge. However, he was given the longest sentence based on the few charges he was guilty of, also he was the eldest. And seeing him scream at Lederer “ you lied on me!” broke the straw on the Camel’s back. She was cold, this was well created. Her expression shows as much as she cared she did her job, and that in its essence shows that we have no allies in the justice system. The last image we remember was Korey going into jail with Grown men, preparing for his 14-year journey through the prison system. Korey had nothing to do with the case, he wasn’t even on the list. Yet he received the worst sentence and was immediately sent to Rikers Island. I will discuss more of Korey in my review of Part 4.
In all, the trial episode was painful, like every other episode. This one stands out because you get to see so many sides of people’s emotions and how easily we turn on each other. People’s true colors and intentions come to light in this chaotic, anxiety-filled episode that has you on the edge of your seat. This is because we know the truth, yet we watch as if we were hoping some miracle would happen and The boys would be acquitted on all charges. Only to have our hearts ripped from our chests in the end.
This is When they See Us part 2 review.