Best Christmas Movie Ever: The Central Park Five Hinting at the Mind of God
I believe in God. Also called the One True God; the God of Abraham; the Most High; Yahweh; Allah, along with a host of other names imposed by humans onto the omniscient deity whose true name is not really a name at all, but an elegant declaration of being — “I am who is”. A declaration of being that is consistent with the logical extrapolation that comes from asking; “Who could possibly name God?”
If those names conjure up images of bearded sky-daddies or is instantly repulsive to you, then you may as well stop reading now and continue the rest of your day. But if you’re someone open to religious view points, then I suggest you continue because I promise to make an argument for God’s hand in the Central Park Five case without using one line of scripture. A case that was dramatized by a Netflix mini-series I discovered on Christmas 2019.
Christmas used to be a time when humans reveled and felt glory at the salvation offered to us by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. A long time ago, Christmas movies like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ used to embody that ideal but recently, the plots of these movies centre more around commercialism or a false understanding of God’s ultimate grace.
Last Christmas though, my daughter and I sat down to watch the Netflix series, ‘When They See Us’ about the famous Central Park Five case. As we sat and watched, I had a revelation on the nature of God. It was a moment of complete mental clarity at how acts of human free will can be reconciled within the context of the pre-deterministic shape that must constitute God’s mind. In watching the characters in this tragic story, I felt a primitive understanding of that shape forming in my own mind. That statement alone will anger Catholics who say it is impossible for anyone to understand the mind of God and I’m not conceited enough to think that I have either.
But what I saw and extrapolated from the 4-part mini-series revealed the shape of a truth that had evaded me for some time. One of the failures of the proselytizing class of Christians and Catholics is their reluctance to put forth an argument for God that stays within the confines of a carbon-based world with terms bound by a three-dimensional reality.
Not that I couldn’t, but experience has shown me that many well-meaning people turn their minds off when they see anything quoted from the bible. I’m also not going to dwell on the racial aspect because that takes away from the truth that the Central Park Five case, at its core, is less about race and more about the distinctly human practice of free will and the final providence of God.
On April 20th, 1989 in New York City’s Central Park, 28 year old investment banker, Trisha Meili was the victim of a brutal beating and rape. Her injuries were severe and left her in a coma for two weeks. Upon awakening, Trisha had no memory of the attack or her attacker. Then Mayor, Ed Koch, called it the ‘crime of the century’ and amid a massive public outcry, the DA and police attempted fervently to find the culprit(s).
This is where teenagers (pictured left to right), Korey Wise(16yo), Yousef Salaam(15yo), Antron McCray(15yo), Raymond Santana (14yo) and Kevin Richardson(15yo); who came to be known as the “Central Park Five”, found themselves the victims of an over-zealous justice system seeking desperately to appease the public.
The youths were rounded up in a dragnet and interrogated by police for more than 24 hours without their attorneys or parents present. The boys, who had no previous records, admitted to joining up with a larger group of older boys who were “wildin” in the park that night.
“Wildin” was a New York City euphemism for nightly energetic rampages through Central Park where inner city youths would generally cause a nuisance with their loud presence. “Wildin” is deplorable behaviour no matter how you look at it, but it is a far cry from the rape that occurred while the boys were following a crowd engaged in it.
After more than 24 hours of interrogation without food or legal counsel, the police and DA settled on an unethical path to achieving confessions from the boys. Armed with no other evidence except the boys’ own admission that they were in the park the night of the rape, the police zeroed-in on them as the prime culprits. The police then applied intense psychological pressure techniques that exploited their ignorance of the law. Achieving confessions by guiding each boy into implicating one of the others in the attack and rape of Trisha Meili.
Lacking the wisdom to properly judge the intentions of the officers interrogating them, the boys were overwhelmed by the gravity of the situation. Their lack of legal understanding made them think they could return to the comfort of their homes by telling the officers what they wanted to hear.
It soon became clear to prosecutors, however, that the timeline for the rape did not match the timeline of the boys’ rampage through the park. Upon searches of their homes, no evidence linking them directly to the crime was ever found either.
DNA results were still some time away, but prosecutors had another problem. None of the boys admitted to the rape. So prosecutors decided to engage in a legal sleight of hand that solidified their weak case. They found someone to corroborate the confessions with an admission of guilt to the actual rape. That person was Korey Wise.
16 year old Korey Wise, a simple-minded teen with a hearing impairment, had not joined the older boys to go “wildin” in the park that night; but had willingly gone to the police station the next day to support his friend, Yousef. When the DA and officers saw Korey, they thought they had found their case’s linchpin.
(full Korey Wise confession)
Korey allowed himself to be interrogated unaware that he was soon going to be sacrificed on the alter of public appeasement. The police interrogated him with the same techniques as those used on the other boys; and by promising freedom in exchange for his admission of rape, the police had closed the case in a way that ensured later convictions.
By the time the trial came around months later, the DNA results had finally and conclusively shown that Trisha was beaten and raped by someone else. The results did not show that anyone aside from Trisha and her attacker had been involved in the crime, and it didn’t include any DNA from the boys. This development was important because it contained the greatest potential for justice. Justice that was still wholly under the command of human free will.
But rather than rethink their conclusion, the prosecutors instead updated their thesis to include the possibility of another, as yet unidentified, 6th attacker whom none of the boys had previously mentioned. They did not re-visit the confession of Korey Wise even though it was shown conclusively that the mystery DNA found at the scene was not his.
By this time, the boys had employed legal counsel who advised them to recant their original confessions but it was too late. The DA who had overseen the the interrogation and arrest of the boys, Linda Fairstein, had committed prosecutors to her version of events. Through the ordeal, Fairstein had the chance to correct the course of justice, but didn’t. Even while the power to do so rested completely in her extrapolations of the facts.
The boys were subsequently found guilty and sentenced to between six and 13 years in prison. Korey Wise, arguably the biggest victim in this, was sentenced to the longest prison sentence. To the DA, the case was closed and justice, a form they were happy with, had been served. During their sentences, the boys were given chances to affirm their guilt in return for shorter sentences but none ever did.
This all came undone when Matias Reyes, a born again Christian, finally admitted to the crime in 2001. This was later by corroborated when the mystery DNA found at the scene was confirmed to be that of Reyes’. According to the Netflix series, all of this came about from a chance encounter between Reyes and Wise in a correctional facility they coincidentally found themselves both staying in.
The series implied that it was this encounter with Wise, and learning of the travesty of justice he had suffered, that triggered Reyes into finally admitting his role as the lone culprit in the rape of Trisha Meili. And it was in that moment, that I had seen the greatest evidence for the hand of God at work.
Korey Wise had been the object of the most injustice. The only reason he allowed himself to become the target of such an overzealous DA and police force was from the simple desire to support his friend. And for his trouble, he ended up spending 13 years suffering every imaginable abuse that came from being a dim-witted 16 year old thrown into an adult prison system. It was also Korey who, from the moment he stepped in to the police station 13 years earlier, would be the boys’ ultimate salvation.
When prosecutors shoe-horned in Wise’s confession of involvement in a hail-Mary attempt to save their case, what they were actually doing was providing the mechanism for the case’s ultimate unraveling. Any objective introspection of the case up until that point, especially considering the DNA results showed that Wise or the boys did not do the crime, should have resulted in the conclusion that they were innocent. Instead, at every turn, it was humans who chose to further the injustice despite the opportunities presented by God to stop it.
After Reyes’ admission, the boys’ convictions were evacuated and they were set free to pick up the pieces of their lives. In 2003, they filed a civil lawsuit against New York City for malicious prosecution. Ten years later, the city settled by awarding the boys $41 million dollars, the most of which going to Korey Wise.
It is my contention that the moment of Wise meeting Reyes was a moment pre-determined by God as his final judgement on the matter if all other human recourse to justice had failed. That through the entire process God had given the DA and police every chance to affect their free will on a grave mistake, but they never did. That in ultimately delivering the real culprit, in a way that left no room for doubt as to the boys’ innocence, God was ultimately setting right the wrong that had been done to the boys by human free will.
The next question is how could God do that. How could he pre-determine moments to affect his will on any given situation? And how does that fit into a carbon-based reality? If you ask Catholics and Christians, they will point to some line of scripture that invariably falls short of the concrete summation of facts based in observable reality that the asker was originally looking for. For me, I believe String Theory can define the contours of a more relatable answer.
String Theory states that our world is constructed of a lattice-like structure of higher dimensions stacked on top of lower ones. That humans inhabit a three dimensional reality that is constructed from the first two, length and width; with the 3rd; height, added to them. That the dimension directly above ours is constructed by taking the first three and adding a 4th; linear time.
As far as we know, humans are the only inhabitants to any of these dimensions but string theory does not rule out the possibility of 1d beings of only length; 2d beings of only width and length; or 4d beings that exist somewhere outside of linear time. It says that if humans were able to communicate with 2d beings, those ‘2ders’ would only be able to perceive our length and width since the mechanism to perceive a 3rd dimension, simply wouldn’t exist in a 2d world.
The possibility of 4d beings is most interesting to me; for if a 4d being were able to communicate with us, the only way we could perceive it would be through time and coincidence because the physical mechanism to perceive anything outside of linear time, simply doesn’t exist in our world either.
Theoretical physicist, Professor S. James Gates Jr, working with string theory made a discovery that supports this. He gained notoriety for discovering what looked to be binary block code in the String Theory equations used to describe the way those those higher dimensions interact with our universe.
Code implies a ‘coder’. For many folks that ‘coder’ takes the shape as anything but God. For me, it is more consistent with Plato’s notion of an ‘unmoved mover’. An ultimate cause that I define as God who affects pre-determinsm onto our three dimensional reality, but from a higher dimension that humans are incapable of understanding or even perceiving in its totality. Meaning, it was God who coded the chance encounter between Reyes and Wise to affect ultimate justice on a situation that humans had failed to correct themselves.
This also forms my answer when God naysayers often ask; “if God exists, why would he allow such a tragedy as that which happened to the Central Park Five to pass?”
The answer is that God is not a granter of wishes. Justice for the boys never left the hands of humans and it is not God’s job to stop injustice, it is the job of humans not to engage in it. The idea of ‘the universe’ oft deferred to by spiritual types as the great cosmic mover shifting people and events around to grant desires is a false understanding of higher dimensions functioning with non-linear time. Things do shift under God’s power but not to grant wishes. Rather, they shift to bring ultimate justice and teach. In watching the Netflix series, I discovered that free will, whether used to choose right or wrong, has the ability to delay God’s will but not to subvert it completely.
The practice of choice is human free will manifest. Over thousands of years, humans have developed a clear understanding of what is right and wrong. Charity is right; lying is wrong; seeking justice is right; applying that justice onto undeserving teens is wrong.
The detectives, the commanding officers overseeing them; and the DAs involved, all willingly chose to apply their version of justice onto innocent teens. In doing so, they chose to impose a hell on them that the boys didn’t deserve. The suffering the boys felt from those decisions was the direct result of humans choosing wrong, not God ignoring human suffering.
God gave humans free will for this very purpose. Allowing evil to exist so that humans could practice the agency of choice. Hoping that in all things and situations, we would actively choose right and reject wrong.
Dr. S. James Gates, Jr. is a theoretical physicist and Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland. Dr. Gates is…
[Sergio Monteiro lives in Asia with his wife and is the author of two books. His first book, Other American Dreams, dealt with the migrant crisis of North Africa and Europe and was compared to the writing of Portuguese novelist, Jose Saramango. His latest work, Enoch’sMuse, follows the life of Enoch, a biblical figure, and is available on Amazon and select bookstores. Enoch’sMuse was selected as a finalist in the 2017 Proverse Prize for Unpublished Fiction, Non-Fiction or Poetry and has been compared to Mary Renault’s, The King Must Die.]
- Silvio Borges Graciano — Administrator, Macau Literary Festival.