Proposal by Manhattan Community Board 10 for a Permanent Exhibit in Central Park to Commemorate the Exonerated Five
At the regularly scheduled monthly Community Board Five meeting on Thursday, January 14, 2021, the following resolution passed with a vote of 39 in favor; 0 opposed; 4 abstaining:
The Exonerated Five, formerly known as The Central Park Five, are five Black and Latino teenagers from Harlem who were wrongfully convicted and prosecuted for the brutal and vicious raping of a white woman in Central Park in 1989. The five teenagers, Antron McCray (15), Kevin Richardson (15), Raymond Santana (14), Korey Wise (16), and Yusef Salaam (15), were subjected to life devastating consequences as a result of this miscarriage of justice. The minors were detained for hours before their parents were called. They were coerced into making confessions to the rape and beating of the female jogger Trisha Meili, after many hours of aggressive interrogation at the hands of seasoned homicide detectives. The youth later recanted, pled not guilty and insisted on their innocence. The four were then tried as youth, while the eldest as an adult under New York laws of the day and convicted, despite inconsistent and inaccurate confessions, DNA evidence that excluded them, and no eyewitness accounts that connected them to the victim. The five youth served their complete sentences; between 6 and 13 years, before another man, serial rapist Matias Reyes, admitted to the crime. DNA testing substantiated Reyes’ confession. The experience not only impacted the lives of the youth and their families but had resounding ramifications throughout the Harlem community which are still being felt today.
On December 19th, 2002, New York State Supreme Court Justice Charles J. Tejada vacated the convictions of the five previously accused youth. He did so based on new evidence: a shocking confession from a serial rapist, Matias Reyes, and a positive DNA substantiating match to evidence found at the crime scene. The young men, who had survived a horrific injustice and violation of their young lives, were exonerated. A year later, the men filed civil lawsuits against the City of New York, and the police officers and prosecutors who had worked toward their conviction. On June 19th, 2014, NYC agreed to a settlement.
When the five former teens convicted in the case were finally exonerated, many community leaders decried the miscarriage of justice that sent the Central Park Five to prison. The case became a flashpoint for illustrating racial disparities in sentencing and the inequities at the heart of the criminal justice system.
WHEREAS, Manhattan Community Board 10 recently approved a resolution in support of a permanent exhibit to commemorate the Exonerated Five to be located in New York City’s Central Park; and
WHEREAS, Numerous community stakeholders, elected officials and not-for-profits have expressed support of such an exhibit; and
WHEREAS, The proposed exhibit would target local area residents, visitors of Central Park, media and youth, and would have a primary purpose of education of the issues raised by this injustice; and
WHEREAS, The details of such an exhibit, including the artist, placement and format, have not yet been determined, as the proposal is in early-stage planning and will ultimately entail the issuance of a call to artists, with the goal to open such an exhibit by December 2022, the 20th anniversary of the vacating of the convictions; so be it
RESOLVED, Community Board Five expresses support of Community Board 10’s proposal for a permanent exhibit commemorating the Exonerated Five to be located in New York City’s Central Park.