UC Santa Barbara students lined up this Tuesday more than an hour early at the campus MultiCultural Center, in anticipation of hearing Yusef Salaam, a member of the “Central Park Five.” As a 15-year-old, Salaam was wrongly accused with four of his friends in the 1989 Central Park Jogger case in Manhattan.
The investigation into the brutal attack and rape of Trisha Meili resulted in the erroneous conviction of the five teenagers, four black and one Latino. Their sentences cost them 5-12 years of their lives in prison. In 2002, the true criminal, Matias Reyes, confessed, and the five were exonerated upon a matching DNA test. In 2003, the five sued the state of New York for $41 million. Yusef Salaam and the others now devote their time to advocating for criminal justice reform and informing young people about the prison-industrial complex. In 2019, their story was told through the Netflix series When They See Us.