We’ve all heard of the Central Park Five. Many of us know the names Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise and Yusef Salaam—the five men who were boys when they were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman who was jogging in Central Park in 1989 and then exonerated after they spent between seven and 11 years in prison.
But you might not be familiar with a sixth victim who was arrested along with the others. Well, that man has now been exonerated.
According to NY Daily News, Steven Lopez was exonerated of a crime he pleaded guilty to when he was 14. He had been arrested along with the other five, but he served less time after pleading to a lesser charge.
From the Daily News:
Lopez pleaded guilty to robbing a male jogger the same night as the rape to avoid a more ruinous conviction. He pleaded after two of the Central Park Five had been found guilty at trial.
Lopez served more than three years in prison and did not appeal his conviction.
Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg described flawed investigative techniques similar to ones uncovered in the case against the Central Park Five, who were all between 14 and 16 years old when they were arrested.
“Mr. Lopez pleaded guilty in the face of false statements, unreliable analysis amidst external pressure,” Bragg said at a news conference. “There was no physical evidence connecting Mr. Lopez to the charge.”
This is just another aspect of the Central Park Five story that reminds us how easy it is for law enforcement to trap young Black boys and coerce them into copping to crimes they didn’t commit. But it’s OK, because Bragg said he’s sorry on behalf of his office. (Note a very thick layer of aggravated sarcasm.)
“I’m sorry for the circumstances that led to this day,” Bragg said in court. “But I hope that this morning was a step forward for him and his loved ones. Many largely forgot that there were six who were falsely accused of rape of the Central Park jogger. He was questioned in the middle of the night. He was implicated by unreliable forensic evidence, and by statements, and as many of you will recall, he was up against incredible public scrutiny.”
Lopez hasn’t commented on his exoneration so far, but his attorney, Eric Renfroe, said it’s an emotional time for his client.
“I don’t think I could describe what this means to him,” Renfroe said. “I couldn’t imagine having gone through this, and I think that he’s tremendously strong for having endured it.”