S6E8: UPDATED EPISODE: Words of a Man: Dr. Yusef Salaam’s Wrongful Conviction for One of NYC’s Most Heinous Crimes
On the night of April 19, 1989, a 28-year-old female jogger was brutally attacked and raped in New York’s Central Park. She was found unconscious with her skull fractured, and 75 percent of her blood drained from her body. Five teens from Harlem—all between the ages of 14 and 16-years-old—were tried and convicted of the crime in one of the most frenzied cases in the city’s history. The woman was dubbed the “Central Park jogger” and the accused teens became known collectively as the “Central Park Five.” One of those boys, Dr. Yusef Salaam, was just 15 years old when he was tried as a juvenile and convicted of rape and assault. He was sentenced to five to ten years in prison. In early 2002, Matias Reyes, a convicted murderer and rapist, admitted that he alone was responsible for the attack on the Central Park jogger. Reyes had already committed another rape near Central Park days earlier in 1989, using the same modus operandi. Although the police had Reyes’s name on file, they failed to connect Reyes to the rape and assault of the Central Park jogger. Eventually, the evidence from the crime was subjected to DNA testing and matched the profile of Reyes, who is currently serving a life sentence. On December 19, 2002, on the recommendation of the Manhattan District Attorney, the convictions of the five men were overturned. Dr. Yusef Salaam had served nearly seven years for a crime he did not commit. Since his release, he has become a family man, father, poet, activist, and inspirational speaker. He has committed himself to advocating for and educating 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. He is featured in the 2019 hit Netflix series When They See Us.
Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom is a production of Lava For Good™ Podcasts in association with Signal Co. No1 and PRX.