The Central Park 5: Where Are They Now?
In 1989, a young woman jogging through New York's Central Park was found in a ravine. She had been viciously beaten and raped, and remained in a coma that lasted 12 days. More than a decade later, DNA evidence exonerated the five Harlem teens imprisoned for years after being erroneously convicted of the crime. Thanks to Ava DuVernay's series When They See Us, the story of those teens - now known as "The Exonerated Five" - has resonated across the country and drawn attention to issues of injustice in our legal system
Yusef Salaam (pictured here in 1990) was 14 when jurors found him guilty of rape, assault, robbery and riot in connection with the assault of 28-year-old investment banker Trisha Meili, as well as separate assaults on two male joggers. Salaam served nearly 7 years in an upstate juvenile detention facility — all the while, he was innocent. In a 2016 editorial published in the Washington Post, Salaam said the police officers who interrogated him deprived him and his four co-defendants of food, drink and sleep for more than 24 hours. Nowadays the married father continues to speak out about his ordeal, and in 2016, Salaam received a lifetime achievement award from President Barack Obama.
An Accused Man Turned Advocate
Korey Wise was 16 when jurors convicted him of assault, sexual abuse and riot. Sentenced to 5 to 15 years behind bars, he was released after serving 12. After the verdict was read, Wise turned his attention towards the prosecutors. “You’re going to pay for this,” Wise shouted in court. “Jesus is going to get you. You made this up.”
Today, Wise still lives in New York City, and is often asked to speak about his ordeal. Through his work with the Innocence Project, Wise also advocates for the rights of the wrongly convicted as well as criminal justice reform.
A Young Life Stolen
Kevin Richardson was 14 when he was accused of attacking and sexually assaulting the Central Park jogger. Eventually, he was convicted of attempted murder, rape, sodomy, assault and robbery, and served more than 5 years for a crime he did not commit. Still a resident of New York City, today Richardson does work for the Innocence Project, advocating for the rights of others who've been wrongfully accused.
Giving Back After Losing So Much
Raymond Santana was 14 when he lost five years of his life following his conviction on rape, assault, robbery, and riot charges. Today, Santana lives in Atlanta with his daughter. Years ago, the filmmaker launched a clothing line called Park Madison NYC. A portion of the proceeds from the sales of one of his T-shirts, bearing the first names of the "Central Park Five," is donated to the Innocence Project.
Forgetting The Past
Antron McCray (right) was 15 when he was tried and convicted on rape, assault, robbery, and riot charges. Sentenced to five to 10 years in prison, he was released after serving six. Nowadays, McCray is living down South, where he's raising his children. In 2012, he was reportedly working as a forklift operator.
A Trump Connection
Years before he became president, prominent New Yorker Donald Trump took a personal interest in implicating the Central Park Five. Days after the attack on the jogger, Trump paid for full-page ads in four major newspapers advocating for the reinstatement of the death penalty. The ads did not specifically mention the "Central Park Five," but called for a beefed-up police force and stiffer penalties for offenders. During his presidental run, Trump reinforced his earlier position, telling CNN, "They admitted they were guilty. The police doing the original investigation say they were guilty."
Free At Last
The reputations of the group once known as the "Central Park Five" were restored when, in June of 2002, a convicted murderer and serial rapist named Matias Reyes — who was then serving a life sentence — admitted it was he who'd attacked Meili. His DNA was subsequently matched to genetic material recovered from the scene. After their convictions were formally vacated, the five wrongly-convicted men filed a civil suit against the city, which settled in 2014 for a reported $41 million.
Accused -- Then Exonerated
The "Exonerated Five" (from left: Kevin Richardson, Antron Mccray, Raymond Santana Jr., Korey Wise and Yusef Salaam) are seen together at the premiere of When They See Us.
As their story became part of the national conversation thanks to the popularity of the Netflix series, the Exonerated Five received a standing ovation at the BET Awards in July 2019. “Your truth is the foundation your legacy will be built on,” Santana said.