By Bruce Fischer
Trisha Meili was raped and beaten in New York City’s Central Park on April 19, 1989. This was a horrendous crime that left Meili in a coma. Doctors feared she wouldn’t survive the attack, but Meili was a fighter and made a remarkable recovery. Due to the severity of the assault, Meili has no recollection of the attack or her attacker.
Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise were between the ages of fourteen and sixteen at the time of their arrests. During long interrogations, each of the five was told that the others had implicated him and put under extreme pressure to confess. Many false or coerced confessions come from young suspects. The pressure of the situation is often too much to bear. Four would eventually give videotaped confessions stating they committed the crime. Yusef Salaam made verbal admissions but refused to sign a confession. Korey Wise was the oldest of the group and was the only one charged as an adult.
Within weeks the four that confessed had retracted their statements, stating they were coerced. The confessions were videotaped but the long interrogations were not. The court was shown only the result of the lengthy interrogations, not the footage leading up to it. There were also many contradictions among the boys’ stories. This should have been an immediate red flag. The boys differed on many major aspects of the crime including who initiated the attack, what weapons were used, and who committed the rape. These boys were telling completely different stories regarding the same crime, yet their inconsistencies were ignored.
The evidence collected at the crime scene was also ignored. DNA collected did not match any of the suspects. Even more appalling was the fact that the DNA collected all came from a single person. The evidence was telling investigators that one person committed the crime, but they refused to acknowledge it. The confessions were all that seemed to matter. All five boys were convicted.
In 2002, Matias Reyes, a convicted murderer, and rapist, confessed to the crime and said he acted alone. DNA tests confirmed that Reyes committed the crime. The five boys who were wrongly convicted were exonerated. The four who were tried as juveniles had already served their entire six-year sentences. Korey Wise had served nearly twelve years in prison before he was exonerated.