On April 19, 1989, the New York Police accused and arrested four African American teenagers and one Latino teenager for the brutal rape of a white woman. The trial of the Central Park Five — in the courts and in the media — became one of the most famous of the 20th century.
As with the Scottsboro Nine and countless other cases, racism carried more weight than the evidence and any hope of a fair trial for the five defendants. Donald Trump took out full-page advertisements in all four of the city’s major newspapers calling for their execution.
The young men — Yusef Salaam, 16, Antron McCray, 16, Korey Wise, 18, Kevin Richardson, 16, and Raymond Santana, 15 — spent between 6 and 13 years in prison. They were only exonerated and released after Matias Reyes, a convicted murderer and serial rapist in prison, confessed to the crime. DNA evidence confirmed his guilt.
Ava DuVernay produced a dramatic mini-series about the Central Park Five called “When They See Us” that streams on Netflix.