Today is the fifth anniversary of the exonerations of
. They were wrongfully convicted of committing the brutal 1989 attack and rape of a central park jogger. Police investigations quickly focused on the five teenagers, who were in police custody for a series of other attacks perpetrated in the park that night. At the time, the defendants were between 14 and 16 years old. They were convicted in two separate trials in 1990 and sentenced as juveniles to 5 to 10 years; Wise, convicted as an adult, was sentenced to 5 to 15 years. The men were exonerated on December 19, 2002, after another man, Matias Reyes, confessed to the crime and subsequent DNA testing excluded all five as suspects. They had served between 5 and 11 years for a crime they did not commit.
Faulty forensics and false confessions contributed to the wrongful convictions of McCray, Richardson, Salaam, Santana and Wise. After prolonged periods of police interrogation, all five confessed to being involved in the attack. McCray, Richardson, Santana and Wise all gave videotaped confessions. These tapes were presented as evidence at trial (despite the glaring inconsistencies among the confessions); the prosecution also presented forensic evidence that was said to link the defendants to the crime. This forensic evidence was later dismissed when DNA testing of the rape kit in 2002 matched Reyes, corroborating his confession and excluding the five as suspects.
Learn more about faulty forensics here
. The convictions of these five teenagers have also raised questions regarding police coercion and false confessions, as well as the vulnerability of juveniles during police interrogations.
Learn more about false confession, which have contributed to 25 percent of wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA testing
Matias Reyes is currently serving a life sentence for a murder and four rapes that occurred after the Central Park attack.
Other exoneration anniversaries this week:
, Louisiana (Served 17 years, Exonerated 12/17/99)
, Virginia (Served 12 years, Exonerated 12/22/05)
, Indiana (Served 7.5 years, Exonerated 12/22/93)
Phillip Leon Thurman
, Virginia (Served 19 years, Exonerated 12/22/05)