In 2002, a New York judge tossed out the convictions of five men who had been convicted as teenagers of an infamous sexual assault they didn’t commit. The ‘Central Park Jogger’ case was thrust back into headlines, this time because five young men had been cleared by DNA testing. Friday marked the sixth anniversary of their exonerations.
Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise were between the ages of 14 and 16 when they were arrested in connections with this crime. After hours of interrogation in which the teens were told that the others had implicated them, four of the defendants gave videotaped confessions.
Biological evidence played a role in the trial. A hair found on Richardson was said to "resemble" the victim's hair. Since the prosecution had little physical evidence, they relied on the taped confessions to attempt to establish the defendants’ guilt. Despite glaring inconsistencies between the confessions, all five teens were convicted. Wise, the oldest at 16 years old, was the only one tried as an adult.
In 2002, Matias Reyes, a convicted murderer and rapist, confessed to the crime and said he had acted alone. While the police had Reyes’ name on file during the investigation, they did not connect him to the Central Park Jogger case. Following Reyes's confession, DNA tests were performed on semen from the rape kit and hairs found on the victim. The test results showed that Reyes's DNA profile matched both the hair and semen. On December 19, 2002, McCray, Richardson, Salaam, Santana and Wise were exonerated. The four men convicted as juveniles had each served nearly six years in prison before their release on parole; Wise was freed after the DNA results came back. He had served nearly 12 years.
Wrongful convictions affect young people more than any other group.
More than one third of DNA exonerees were arrested before their 22nd birthday, and young people are particularly susceptible to giving false confessions. To explore photos and videos of young people convicted of crimes they didn’t commit, and to build a school paper or presentation, visit the
Innocence Project’s '947 Years' website
Other Exoneree Anniversaries Last Week:
, Louisiana (Served 17 Years, Exonerated, 1999)
, New Jersey (Served 5 Years, Exonerated 1999)
, Ohio (Served 6.5 Years, Exonerated 2005)
, New York (Served 17 years, Exonerated 2005)
, Indiana (Served 18.5 Years, Exonerated 2001)
Billy Wayne Miller
, Texas (Served 22 Years, Exonerated 2006)
Frank Lee Smith
, Florida (Served 14 Years, Exonerated 2000)