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The exonerated men in the 1989 Central Park jogger case received a standing ovation at this weekend’s BET Awards.
While introducing the men, Regina Hall, host of the 19th annual ceremony, named Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana Jr. and Korey Wise as the group “now known as the exonerated five.”
In 1990, the five black and brown teens were wrongly convicted of raping a white female jogger in the New York City park. They were famously dubbed the “Central Park Five,” a moniker given to them by the media that Ava DuVernay’s Netflix miniseries When They See Us set out to erase with its recent release.
After serving seven to 13 years in prison, the men were ultimately exonerated in 2002 when a confession from a serial rapist and DNA evidence overturned their convictions.
On the stage Sunday at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles, the men took turns taking the microphone.
“We are all on our own individual journey in life,” said Wise, who was the only one of the five who was tried and wrongly convicted as an adult.
“We don’t know where our journeys will take us or how they will collide with others,” added McCray, wearing a T-shirt listing their names.
“I didn’t know that one day would bond me to these men for the rest of my life,” said Richardson.
“But I know that in telling our truth, our lives have been changed forever,” added Salaam.
“Your truth is the foundation your legacy will be built upon. Your truth will be the memories people keep long after you’re gone,” closed Santana Jr.
When They See Us has reignited interest in the case since its May 31 release. Renewed backlash over the missteps that were made from the top down have resulted in both Linda Fairstein, who headed Manhattan’s sex crimes unit at the time, and lead prosecutor Elizabeth Lederer resigning from current board and law positions, respectively. Fairstein has also been dropped by her publisher amid the outcry.
McCray, Richardson, Salaam, Santana and Wise were eventually awarded a $41 million settlement from the city and received an apology from NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014. Trump, who took out newspaper ads at the time calling for a reinstatement of the death penalty in New York, has yet to offer an apology to the men.
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