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Korey Wise of the Exonerated Five to speak at UMES during Black History Month

  • Eldest exoneree whose story is told in Netflix’s “When They See Us” to speak on Feb. 20

    Monday, January 27, 2020
    Photo provided by speaker/speaker's liaison

    Korey Wise, a criminal justice reform advocate, will be the featured speaker for, “Life After Injustice: A Conversation with Korey Wise” at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore Thursday, Feb. 20 at 6 p.m.

    During the event, Wise will share his story of wrongful conviction, incarceration, and life after injustice. Sixteen-year-old Wise and four other teens of color (Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana Jr., Kevin Richardson, and Antron McCray) were wrongfully charged and convicted for the 1989 assault and rape of a white female jogger in Central Park.  The boys' ages ranged from 14 to 16 at the time. Their convictions were based on false confessions. Wise was the only one tried and sentenced as an adult.

    Sentenced to five to 15 years in prison, the Harlem native served nearly 14 years in the New York penal system before being exonerated by the confession of the culprit of the near fatal attack, Matias Reyes. DNA evidence from the 1989 crime scene matched Reyes. The men's convictions were overturned in December 2002. 

    In 2014, while admitting no wrongdoing, the City of New York reached a settlement with the five men after their wrongful imprisonment and the violation of their civil rights. This settlement allowed Wise to help others who are wrongfully incarcerated through his $190,000 donation to the University of Colorado Law School's Innocence Project, which was renamed in his honor.

    “The story of Korey Wise is one of tragedy and triumph, wrongful conviction to rightful exoneration. It is clear in hindsight that he and the other teens were victims of a miscarriage of justice in the American legal system. Such instances happen at a far more disproportionate rate among African Americans, and speaks to a systemic racial bias in our criminal justice system,” said Dr. Marshall Stevenson Jr., dean of the School of Education, Social Sciences and The Arts.

    “In the aftermath of their exoneration, Mr. Wise and the other men have devoted their time and efforts to advocating for justice reform. Students need to be fully aware of the challenges our nation faces between the criminal justice system and the African American community,” said Stevenson on the importance of Wise's visit to the historically black university.

    The 2019 Ava DuVernay-directed series, “When They See Us” (Netflix) chronicles the story of Wise and the other four men. At age 21, actor Jharrel Jerome's portrayal of both young and adult Korey Wise earned him his first and historic Emmy win for lead actor in a limited series at the 71st Emmy Awards. Jerome is the first Afro-Latino to win an Emmy Award for acting. The story of the "Exonerated Five" was previously told in the 2012 Ken and Sarah Burns documentary ”The Central Park Five” (PBS).

    The event, which will take place in UMES' Ella Fitzgerald Center for the Performing Arts, is free and open to the public. Tickets are required for admission. 

    Reserve your ticket at umestickets.com. For more information, call 410-651-7580.


    By Tahja Cropper