Who Are The Central Park Five? The True Story Behind Netflix's 'When They See Us'

Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise. These are the names of the Central Park Five, a group of young men wrongfully accused of raping a jogger in Central Park in 1989. All five men, prejudged by the law and public at large because of their race, went to prison for a crime they didn't commit.

The Central Park Five is a name most Americans have heard, primarily because of the polarizing conversation surrounding their arrests. Now, they're all free from prison, and their names have been cleared. But some still don't know the difference between the five who were once considered hateful, violent men, and the five who are now decalred innocent and absolved of the crime.

Korey Wise, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, and Yusef Salaam attend the 2012 DOC NYC Festival Closing Night Screening Of "The Central Park Five" at SVA Theater on November 15, 2012, in New York City. D Dipasupil/Getty Images

The story of the Central Park Five has long inspired media assessments and books on the infamous crime, and how five men who had no involvement could be convicted of such a heinous act. The Central Park Five are the subject of a documentary of the same name, released in 2012. A series of books also revolves around the crime, and wrongful convictions. Even the jogger, Trisha Meili, released a book on the infamous night in Central Park. The story is also featured in the Netflix documentary 13th.

Now Netflix will offer its own take on the Central Park Five. When They See Us, a non-fiction reenactment, casts actors to represent the five men, as well as other players, over a period of 25 years. It all begins with the fateful questioning that led the five to be arrested for rape, even though they had nothing to do with it.

Who Are The Central Park Five? The Crime and Arrests

Trisha Meili, known to millions as the Central Park jogger who was beaten, raped and left to die, speaks at the Sexual Assault Education Center's 2nd annual Author's Luncheon April 10, 2003, in Stamford, Connecticut. Angela Jimenez/Getty Images

Meili's body was found badly beaten and unconscious in Central Park on April 20, 1989 and required hospitalization to recover from her injuries. At the time she was 28 years old, and had no memory of what happened to her while she was jogging in the New York City park.

It was later revealed that Meili had been tied, beaten with a rock and raped in the park that night. She lost 75 percent of her blood by the time her body was found. The next day, an article claiming a "wolf pack" gang was wreaking havoc throughout NYC was published in the New York Daily News. The other crimes spotlighted claimed upwards of 12 "youths" were assaulting men and women throughout the city.

McCray, Richardson, Salaam, Santana and Wise were questioned shortly after the crime. They were between the ages of 14 and 16 at the time. All confessed their guilt on tape, but later explained the confessions were coerced by authorities.

The men explained harsh conditions that led to their confessions. "When we were arrested, the police deprived us of food, drink or sleep for more than 24 hours," Salaam explained in an article written for the Washington Post in 2016. "Under duress, we falsely confessed. Though we were innocent, we spent our formative years in prison, branded as rapists." It was also said that the men were beaten by New York police while under interrogation, according to CBS.

The jail times for the five men varied between six and 13 years in prison before their convictions were overturned in 2002. The big catch in the case was that none of the Central Park Five had DNA present at the crime scene, and there were no eye witness testimonies. So when someone else surprisingly confessed to the violent rape, there was no reason to argue otherwise.

Who Are The Central Park Five? The Acquittal

Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam and Kevin Richardson, three of the five men wrongfully convicted of raping a woman in Central Park in 1989, speak at a press conference on city halls' steps after it was announced that the men, known as the "Central Park Five," had settled with New York City on June 27, 2014, in New York City. Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Matias Reyes, who was already behind bars for rape and murder, confessed to the Central Park rape in 2002. He took sole responsibility for the crime. After his confession, DNA evidence from the crime scene was easily matched to his DNA, proving he did rape Meili and also proving that the Central Park Five were, in fact, innocent.

There would never be a trial for Reyes, because his confession exceeded the statute of limitations. It took from June 2002, when Reyes confessed, until December the same year for the five men to be formally freed from the charges.

The Central Park Five settled their wrongful convictions with the city of New York in 2014 for $41 million, according to CBS. As for how they're living life now, the men claim there's not a day that goes by without memory of their time spent behind bars for a crime they didn't commit.

If there is a lesson to be learned from the wrongful conviction, McCray says it's honesty. "Life lessons for me is just truth, truth," said McCray in a conversation with CBS Sunday Morning on May 12. "I preach to my kids, 'Just tell the truth. Be true to who you are.' Honestly, the last time I lied got me seven-and-a-half years for something I didn't do. So, I'll always preach that."

Today, it's common knowledge that the Central Park Five have been cleared from the devastating crime, but not all see them as innocent. Current President Donald Trump still maintains that the five men did, in fact, rape Meili that day. During his time as an NYC real estate mogul, Trump even took out a full-page ad in the New York Daily News calling for their execution.

central park five trump ad
New York Times

He commented on it most recently during his 2016 presidential campaign. "They admitted they were guilty. The police doing the original investigation say they were guilty," Trump said in a statement, according to NBC News. "The fact that that case was settled with so much evidence against them is outrageous. And the woman, so badly injured, will never be the same."