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History Speaks - Raymond Santana of the Central Park Five - a wrongful conviction

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History Speaks welcomes Raymond Santana, one of the wrongfully convicted 'Central Park Five' now known as the 'Exonerated Five.'

What happened? The tragic events unfolded in 1989, when a young female jogger was brutally attacked and raped in New York City's Central Park. She was found unconscious with severe, life-threatening injuries. She recovered with no memory of the assault. Initial police investigations quickly focused on a group of African American and Latino youths. The defendants, five boys between 14 and 16 years of age, were convicted and became known collectively as the ‘Central Park Five.’

After the teens served out their sentences, Matias Reyes came forward to claim sole responsibility for the attack. A convicted serial rapist and murderer serving a minimum 33-year sentence, Reyes’ DNA and confession matched evidence. The Central Park Five were finally exonerated in 2002.

Raymond Santana had spent five years in prison, and more than a decade as an outcast, for a crime he did not commit. The investigation of the convictions of these five teenagers has raised questions regarding police coercion and false confessions, as well as, the vulnerability of juveniles during police interrogations.

After his exoneration, Santana became a vocal advocate for criminal justice reform and often speaks on the topic.

Learn more: The story of the five teenagers is dramatized in a Netflix original series, When They See Us. Oprah interviewed the five men in an hour-long special and Ken Burns produced a special for PBS. The Innocence Project highlights the journey of Raymond Santana. And, a Google search yields many results.

History Speaks is an annual civil rights lecture hosted by Oklahoma Christian University as a part of our commitment to engage students and the community with complex dialogue. OC students and alumni are the world's next policy makers, district attorneys and law enforcement. Past History Speaks lecturers include Andrew Young, Wheeler Parker, Jr., Diane Nash, Olympic medalists John Carlos and Tommie Smith, Carlotta Walls LaNier and Terrence Roberts of the Little Rock Nine, and Claudette Colvin and Fred Gray.

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