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The Central Park 5

A Black History Story
Peabody Awards
Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, David McMahon, Ken Burns and Stephanie Jenkins with the Peabody Award for “The Central Park Five” documentary

On April 19, 1989, four young black boys and one latino young boy ages 14-16 are accused of beating and sexually assaulting a 28 year old white woman named Trisha Meili. Known infamously as the Central Park Five: Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana Jr., Korey Wise’s lives would be turned upside down for over 20 years as they continued to fight their case.

The Central Park Five is featured in the Netflix documentary: When they See Us.  This four part mini series chronicles the story of the five and problems in the New York City police department during this time.  

The mini series accurately portrays the events that shook the African-American and Hispanic community because it was black and latino teenagers being accused of a deranged crime. This story, which is not a part of mainstream history, means the younger generation does not know this story and the recent persecution of minorities as little as 30 years ago. I found this mini series story so addicting I went rabbit hole and spent hours learning about it. 

The part about this story that had hit the African-American and Hispanic community hard was there was no physical evidence and everything went off allegations. 

The reasoning for such a finger pointing and a quick closed case was because during that time in New York City there were 1,905 murders, the rise of burglary and theft was up to 11.5% stated in New York Times.  The police departments wanted to get the crime rate down to try to make the city safer, even if they mischarged and sent innocent people and kids to jail or prison.

On the night of the crime the Central Park 5 were in a group of approximately 40 African-American and Hispanic teenagers, mostly between the ages of 14 and 16. They went into Manhattan’s Central Park, around 9 p.m. They went down to wild ‘n out (which means to react overly enthusiastically). This term was used by the black boys who were in the park at that time. When these teenagers went down there, some of them decided to harass some people going by, which is why the police were called. In the case the five boys were never involved in harassing anyone. However, the police also found the rape vicitim and linked it to the group of boys without evidence. 

In the summary of the case file document “Not all of the individuals in this group knew everyone else. Not every individual was present at each of the events that followed. They proceeded, at times together and at other times splitting up into smaller groups, to terrorize people through a large section of the park for almost an hour.” 

This statement in the case file gives evidence to later accusations made towards the Central Park 5  because it was clear not all people knew everyone there and that people just showed up to hangout while others chose to act in more heinous ways because they were teenagers doing dumb things. 

During the course of a six-week pre-trial the allegations about threats and physical forces and harm and the act of interrogation of a minor without a parent present. Through the investigation and careful analysis, Judge Galligan found that the statements by the Central Park 5 except for one had no basis to stand ground in court. There was not enough evidence to be found that the detectives did anything that they were accused of. 

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0. Yusef Salaam of the Central Park Five – speaking at a rally for Troy Davis. Union Square, New York City. (Thomas Good)

This fact later on was found not true. The detectives in this case were later found to have broken multiple rules during the interrogation like physical assault, not letting them sleep, not letting them eat, cursing and screaming at them, threatening them with jail time, not noticing the parents of the underage kids and having them by themselves. So the officers could get a confession to get the case closed because there was no physical evidence to link the kids together. These statements are greatly proven in the article by the Atlantic newspaper Coerced – Sponsor Content – When They See Us on Netflix.

Later when they went to court for this case they were all found guilty and went to jail all of them except one of them went to juvenile correction center and Korey Wisewas sent to Riker Island and he spent the longest time there In the series. When they see us on Netflix, it shows us that Wise was moved around prison to prison because he felt unsafe and so the last time he went to a different prison he was in prison with the actual person who committed the crime that night, Matias Reyes. 

Reyes would then tell Wise that he did it and then Reyes felt bad that these kids spent years in prison because of him and then he went to the warden and told what happened and it went from there and the trial went on and they took blood samples and other bodily fluid tests and they came back with a match. 

So with this finding after 13 years all five of those now men were exonerated from their crimes and got taken off the rapist list. After they were exonerated and their lives have been ruined because of being wrongfully accused they sued the city of New York and in 2014 they won 41 million split between them which helped a little bit but it doesn;t solve the problem that they spent 7 to 13 years in jail with the mental trauma that they had to live through. 

Here’s where they are today according to Where Are the Central Park Five Now? Korey, Yusef, Antron, Raymond, and Kevin Today 

“Today, Kevin lives in New Jersey with his wife and two daughters. He works as an advocate for criminal justice reform, and continues to speak about his experiences at various events.”

“Antron leads a relatively quiet life today in Georgia, where he lives with his wife and their six children. But to this day, he still has not forgiven his father for pushing him to lie to the police.”

“In 2018, he started his own clothing company called Park Madison NYC. (Among other shirts, jackets, and hats, the company offers a T-shirt that lists the names of the Central Park Five.) And interestingly, it was actually a tweet from Raymond that inspired director Ava Duvernay to start working on When They See Us.”

“Korey has continued to live in New York City, where he works as a public speaker and criminal justice reform advocate. In 2015, he donated $190,000 to the University of Colorado’s chapter of the Innocence Project, which then changed its name to the Korey Wise Innocence Project at Colorado Law in his honor.”

“Today, Yusef is a father to 10 children and lives in Georgia with his family. He’s a published poet, public speaker, and advocate for criminal justice reform. Yusef has also received various awards for his work, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from former President Barack Obama in 2016.”


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About the Contributor
John Mitchell
John Mitchell, Staff Writer
John Mitchell (he/him) is a sophomore. This is his first year on staff, he's involved in coaching k-1 flag football, he's in the student council and social justice. He likes to read, write, and adventure.
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