Thirty years after a brutal attack that changed their lives, the men known as the Central Park Five have been thrust back into the spotlight with the release of a limited series about the case.
"When They See Us," a four-part series on Netflix directed by Ava DuVernay, depicts the lives of five teenagers who were wrongfully convicted of attacking and raping jogger Trisha Meili in Central Park on the night of April 19, 1989.
Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise had initially confessed to taking part in the attack, but the confessions contradicted each other, and the teens and their attorneys insisted for years that police coerced them into giving false statements during interrogations. There was no physical evidence that tied any of the teens to the crime.
They were found guilty in 1990. McCray, Richardson, Salaam and Santana served between 6 and 7 years, but Wise, the only one tried as an adult, served 12 years in prison.
In 2002, Matias Reyes, a convicted murderer and rapist who was serving a minimum 33-year sentence, came forward to claim sole responsibility for the attack. His DNA matched genetic material found at the scene, but he could not be tried in the case because the statute of limitations had expired.
The convictions of the Central Park Five were set aside later that year, and the group received a $41 million lawsuit settlement from the city in 2014.
Amid the roaring success of "When They See Us," Netflix announced a follow-up special, "When They See Us Now," executive produced and hosted by Oprah Winfrey.
The special, which was taped on Sunday and aired on OWN and Netflix Wednesday night, features two in-depth interviews: one with the cast and producers of the series and another with DuVernay and the Central Park Five, whom Netflix is now referring to as the "Exonerated Five."
Here’s a look at where each of the men are now.
Antron McCray lives in Georgia with his wife and six children, according to The Innocence Project, a nonprofit group that helped overturn the convictions of the Central Park Five.
McCray has largely avoided the media since the city settled his civil lawsuit in 2014, but he has made several public appearances this year related to the Netflix series.
In the group’s interview with Winfrey, he said the series brought back "a lot of pain." "I thought I was over it," he said, adding that he still suffers trauma from being wrongfully convicted and imprisoned.
"I’m damaged. I need help. I know it, but I just try to keep myself busy," he said. "I work out. I ride my motorcycle, go see Ray (Santana) — he lives five minutes away from me."
McCray also addressed his relationship with his father, who told him during police interrogations to admit to the attack. McCray has said he never forgave his father. "He’s a coward," he said in the interview with Winfrey. "I hate him. My life is ruined."
In an interview with CBS News on May 12, McCray explained his resentment toward his father, saying that he looked up to the man but that "he gave up on me."
"You know, I was telling the truth and he just told me to lie," McCray told CBS News correspondent Maurice DuBois.
McCray said he tries to teach his kids to tell the truth and "be true to who you are."
"Honestly, the last time I lied got me 7 1/2 years for something I didn’t do."
Kevin Richardson lives in New Jersey with his wife and children, according to the Innocence Project.
Richardson has spoken publicly on several occasions since he was exonerated and the Innocence Project credits him, along with Santana and Salaam, with pushing criminal justice reforms in New York, including a mandate that law enforcement interrogations be recorded.
In February 2017, Richardson and Salaam discussed wrongful convictions and criminal justice reform at the Fashion Institute of Technology. He also joined Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project, for a similar event as part of a Talks at Google series in October 2017.
A visit to Bronx Preparatory High School to speak with students about the case resulted in the school bestowing the Central Park Five with honorary diplomas that same year, The New York Times reported. Richardson, Salaam and Santana — all of whom obtained GEDs and associate degrees while serving time — attended the ceremony, according to The Times.
In the discussion with Winfrey, Richardson says he’s glad that the series has brought the conversation of race and wrongful convictions to the forefront of societal discourse because "not too many things have changed" in the last 30 years.
"I’m so happy and ecstatic that we can start the conversation now and to make sure that there will never be another Central Park Five," he says. "I understand what Antron means, it is bittersweet because watching this is painful but it’s necessary. This needs to be watched. We need to make sure things change now."
Yusef Salaam is now a father of 10, living in Georgia, according to the Innocence Project, where Salaam serves as a board member.
He is a motivational speaker with the goal of helping people "find your worth when it seems like everyone and everything is against you," according to a website for his company, Yusef Speaks.
Salaam is also an author and advocate for reforms to the criminal justice system.
"He has committed himself to advocate and educate people on the issues of mass incarceration, police brutality and misconduct, false confessions, press ethics and bias, race and law, and the disparities in America’s criminal justice system, especially for young men of color," his website says.
During the "When They See Us Now" interview, Salaam said he believes the series is helping people to "realize that we didn’t have to go through this. This is how the system, despite the wheels of justice, mowed us down."
He said he used to feel like he was walking around with his head down. Now, "I’m proudly raising my head," Salaam said to applause.
In 2016, he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from President Barack Obama.
Raymond Santana Jr.
After settling his wrongful conviction lawsuit with the city, Raymond Santana Jr. started working on his clothing company, Park Madison NYC, with the help of his business partner and former president of Run Athletics, Rasheed Young.
"A missed dream to pursue a career in fashion design has guided Raymond Santana to create Park Madison NYC," the company says on its website.
Launched in 2018, Park Madison NYC is a nod to the area in Harlem where Santana grew up, and some of the apparel draws inspiration from his life experiences as one of the Central Park Five. In an Instagram post from April 26, Santana shared a T-shirt with his mug shot on it. He created the shirt, dubbed the “Raymond Santana Tribute Tee,” to show how far he’s come in life.
"I wanted to recognize the ups and downs, the road I traveled to become the man that I am today. The obstacles, and how I lost my passion for art, but regained it by creating @parkmadisonnyc. This shirt symbolizes so much for me. Words can’t explain. But it’s my art, it’s my expression … it’s my truth," he wrote in the post.
In the "When They See Us Now" taping, Santana said the fight for justice gives him hope.
"It took them two and a half years to charge us, try us, convict us and send us to prison and then forget about us," he told Winfrey. "What they didn’t realize is that we’re still here. We’re grown now and they will have to deal with us for the rest of their lives."
Santana lives in Georgia and has a teenage daughter, according to published reports.
Korey Wise is the only one of the five who still lives in New York City.
He is a public speaker and advocate for criminal justice reform, who has worked with the Innocence Project. In 2015, the Colorado Innocence Project was renamed the Korey Wise Innocence Project in honor of a $190,000 donation from Wise.
In the interview with Winfrey, Wise said watching "When They See Us" was "bittersweet."
"I was going through poetry in motion," he said, adding that his life now feels like "life after death."