Celebrating Black History Month – The Exonerated Five

Sabrina Howard, Staff Reporter

On April 19, 1989, five Black and Latinx teenagers named Raymond Santana (14), Kevin Richardson (14), Yusef Salaam (15), Antron McCray (15), and Korey Wise (16) were all arrested due to being at the wrong place at the wrong time situation. These young men would come to be known as the Central Park 5, and their stories would further expose the bias in the criminal justice system.

These teens along with their friends were out late at night walking all over Central Park, New York City, when suddenly the cops came and started grabbing and attacking random people. Many got away but these five were unlucky. 

At the park they were beat and pushed down while the cops were laughing at them. Then after they were taken to the station they were beat more. They were also forced to give a false confession to a crime they did not commit. The reason the cops were there in the first place was because a white woman was raped and beaten. Since there was a large group of “suspicious” kids nearby. 

The night when everyone decided to go to the park; it was supposed to be a fun night. Although they were loud, they were just kids having fun. The cops just grabbing five young people within this group and beating them until they gave false confessions meant that the ones they chose had to be the one to rape this woman. 

These men deserved to be exonerated and personally I am glad that they did. It is stories like this and similar that make everyone believe cops choose who to protect, but there are only bad people out there.Legally cops cannot make the decision someone is guilty; that is why they leave it up to the court. Sometimes that just makes it worse. In 2002 Matias Reyes was found guilty of this crime, the sole perpetrator was sent to jail. Meanwhile, Korey was released. The other four had been previously released.

Many years of these men’s lives were wasted because some prosecutor wanted fame for solving the case. In 2019 after an adaptation of this case appeared on Netflix, Elizabeth Lederer, the lead prosecutor decided that she would not be continuing her job and left. 

Yusef Salaam went on to become a doctor and a poet, even writing two books of his own. 

Raymond Santana became a film producer and produced a movie called Bloodsworth: An Innocent Man. 

Korey Wise is an activist fighting for everything he believes in and works with other activists to help make the legal justice system better and right. He travels around the U.S to do so. 

Antron McCray now lives a quiet life with his wife and their six children. 

Kevin Richardson is also an advocate for criminal justice, and lives life with his wife and two daughters. 

“They said if I was there and if I went along with it, that I could go home. And that’s all I wanted. That’s all I wanted, was to go home. That’s all I still want.” –Korey Wise.