Preview: The Central Park Five say $41M settlement can't replace years spent behind bars
Five men wrongfully convicted for beating and raping a jogger in Central Park say a $41 million settlement with New York City has helped their lives, but will never replace the years they spent in jail. The men talk about the settlement, their lives today and more in an interview with Maurice DuBois for “CBS Sunday Morning,” to be broadcast May 12.
Three decades ago Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise and Kevin Richardson were tried and convicted for attacking jogger Trisha Meili. They all proclaimed their innocence, and maintained they were coerced and beaten during interrogations by police, but they were convicted and spent years in prison.
Their convictions were vacated in 2002, when another man already in prison, Matias Reyes, admitted he was the man who had raped Meili. In 2014, the City of New York settled a lawsuit with the five men for $41 million.
Did the money make their lives better?
“It made it better where we were able to relocate, put our children in better situations,” said Santana. “But besides that, no.”
“No amount of money could have given us our time back,” Salaam said. “And that time is really what’s important.”
In 1989 the story of the Central Park Five shook New York City because of the ages of the suspects and the brutality of the crime. Then teenagers, the five claimed police guided them into stories that implicated the other teens. None of them admitted to committing the rape, just being there and blaming each other. “We’re 14-, 15- and 16-year-old kids,” said Santana. “Never been in trouble with the law, never had no police contact. These are seasoned veterans, 20 years on the force. This fight was fixed.”
Four of the five served about seven-year sentences as juveniles. The oldest, Korey Wise, was sentenced and served as an adult. He spent 13 tough years in prison. The actual attacker, Reyes, had met Wise years before, and he began to feel guilty that Wise was still in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Reyes’ confession, and DNA evidence, led to the convictions of the Central Park Five being vacated.
Today, the men say the experience they’ve been through crosses their mind every day. “Constantly,” said Santana.
Is there a life lesson they take away from being arrested and wrongly convicted?
“Life lessons for me is just truth, truth,” said McCray. “I preach to my kids, ‘Just tell the truth. Be true to who you are.’ Honestly, the last time I lied got me seven-and-a-half years for something I didn’t do. So, I’ll always preach that.”
The story of the Central Park Five is now the subject of a new Netflix mini-series from Oscar-nominated writer-director Ava DuVernay, called “When They See Us.” She told DuBois, “My goal was to humanize boys, and now men, who are widely regarded as criminals, and in doing that, to invite the audience to re-interrogate everyone that they define as a criminal.”
To watch a trailer for the miniseries “When They See Us” click on the video player below.
“Sunday Morning,” hosted by Jane Pauley, is broadcast on CBS Sundays beginning at 9:00 a.m. ET. Executive producer is Rand Morrison. “Sunday Morning” also streams on CBSN beginning at 9:30 a.m. ET and repeated at 1 p.m. ET, and is available on cbs.com, CBS All Access, and On Demand. You can also download the free “Sunday Morning” audio podcast at iTunes and at Play.it.
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