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Exonerated 5

Source: Courtesy of P. Hunt / Hunt


On Monday, December 19, the unveiling of the Gate of the Exonerated will commence at Central Park on 110th St. in Harlem, New York. The Gate honors and symbolizes those who were wrongfully incarcerated and is supported by numerous government entities and advocacy groups, including NYC Mayor Eric Adams’ Office, Manhattan Community Board 10, The Innocence Project and Justice 4 The Wrongfully Incarcerated. Justice is realized in this initiative.

The project has been a longtime coming and has been in the works since 2019. Community board member Karen Horry recalled working on the project “all through the pandemic” while grieving the loss of her sister to COVID-19. 

“It’s a labor of love,” Horry told MADAMENOIRE. 

This is vindicating for the community,

“It’s monumental in many ways,

“Here, we’re experience the school to prison pipeline. So many people have been disenfranchised because of dealing with mass incarceration we suffer from here.”

While the Gate of the Exonerated commemorates all who are victims of criminal injustice, it is especially focused on the Exonerated Five—formerly referred to as the Central Park Five—who were charged and wrongfully convicted for the assault and rape of Trisha Meili, a white woman who was attacked while jogging in Central Park on the night of April 19, 1989. Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise and Yusef Salaam were manipulated by law enforcement and coerced into making guilty confessionals.

The teenage boys later recanted and instead remained steadfast in their innocence. They’ve suffered the consequences of a flawed verdict in the case and we’re imprisoned up to 13 years.

It was not until 2002 that justice was truly served,  when serial rapist and murderer Matias Reyes admitted to the rape and was linked by DNA. 

The heart wrenching story was adapted into a film that displays the lives and unjust trial of five young men in Ava Duvernay’s limited series When They See Us.

2019 BET Awards - Show

Source: Kevin Winter / Getty

Their story—and others— is critical to the fight for racial equality, and the dismantling of corruption within the criminal justice system. 

“Hopefully we are starting the re-education process,” Sharonne Salaam, mother of Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five told MN. “And that people who have been exonerated may be looked at as human beings,  people who were innocent of crimes they did not do, people deserving a chance at life.”

Salaam continued, “people can now admit that there is a systemic problem of innocent people going to jail for crimes they did not do.”

Horry, is aligned with this sentiment: “We need to raise our level of consciousness as a society,” Horry said. “We need to evolve. We’ve come a long way, but as long as these types of injustices continue, we need to have continued dialogues and put remedies in place to correct them …. This commemoration prompts that.”

It is of no consequence that ”NYC has the third-highest wrongful conviction rate,” the Bronx Times reported. According to a 2009 report conducted by the The Innocence Project, New York State has led most states in wrongful convictions, following Texas and Illinois. Currently, 3,340 people have been exonerated over the last 33 years, according to National Registry of Exonerations—costing the innocent a collective total of 28,450 years of their lives.

The Gate Of The Exonerated is a sign of reclamation and recognition of innocence. It’s an acknowledgment of the stolen years; unfair trials; racial profiling; and broken homes. 

It’s a reminder of what can be accomplished collectively—but also that there is still work to be done. 

“There’s definitely more to come,” said community activist Prince E. Hunt. “We’re in a season of Emancipation Reclamation.”

The commemoration for the wrongfully incarcerated takes place and the Exonerated Five is open to the public,  and takes place on Monday, December 19 at 11AM EST

See details below:

Exonerated 5

Source: Courtesy of P. Hunt / Hunt

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