Raymond Santana, one of The Central Park Five, stopped by The Source office to give us an update on his life and lawsuit against the city of New York.
Written By: Joe-Louis Mccray
In 1989 Santana along with Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, and Kharey Wise were coerced by the New York Police Department into giving false confessions to the assault and rape of Central Park Jogger Trisha Meili. Although they were no DNA evidence linking the group to the crimes they were wrongfully convicted.
In 2002, convicted rapist and murderer Matias Reyes confessed to the crimes. Through DNA evidence it was confirmed that Reyes was indeed the culprit.
In an interview with Santana he made it clear that they were exonerated of all charges. They are and were always innocent
“There were over 400 articles written on us within the first 2 weeks of this case, for a fourteen year old kid my life was dissected early, they pulled out stuff they use against us to paint this picture to try to show the public were animals it generated an emotional outcry…it also made people not care what happens to us,” he says as he explains the role the media played in depicting “The Central Park Five” as guilty before the case went to trail.
Although DNA evidence proves Mathias Reyes acted alone, lead investigator Linda Fairstien refuses to acknowledge her wrong doings in the case. The group filed a $250 million dollar lawsuit against the city of New York in 2003. It’s still pending.
Santana goes on to expressed how the case hindered his relationship with family members. Since then he has forgiven them and thanks his father for his enduring support. Santana says since he’s been exonerated, he’s been able to cope because “this case is still pending and a lot of people depend on me to come through and deliver whatever message I’ve been given to give out.”
He holds the investigation team responsible but does not harbor any bitterness towards them. He states, “It was a failure for them to do their job, for them to uphold justice.”
Santana points to a chapter in Harlan Levy’s “And the Blood Cried Out: A Prosecutor’s Spellbinding Account of DNA’s Power to Free or Convict” where Levy receives a phone call from Elizabeth Lederer stating there was no DNA evidence connecting the group to Trisha Meili. It’s at that point where the prosecution team started to formulate a strategy to wrongfully convict these young men.
Eventually the group’s story caught the attention of Sarah Burns during her internship with attorney Jonathan Moore. What was originally planned as a paper evolved into a book. As the book was wrapping up she proposed an idea of a documentary to the group. The documentary titled “The Central Park Five” was directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon. Santana said “here’s a woman who was on her way to law school, her career was set, her path was set, and she changed it and she didn’t go to law school because she decided she wanted to help us fight injustice.”
Check out the full interview below: