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Korey Wise  

One of the Central Park Five & Criminal Justice Activist

When police began collecting suspects in the 1989 Central Park Jogger case, Korey Wise's friend, 15-year-old Yusef Salaam, was brought in for questioning. In a show of support, Korey decided to accompany him. This turned out to be a grave mistake, however, as the police ended up pulling him into the interrogation room as well.

At 16, Korey was the oldest of the boys who would eventually become known as the "Central Park Five." And because of his age, he was legally allowed to be questioned by detectives without the supervision of a parent or guardian. Combine this with the fact that Korey struggled with hearing issues and a learning disability, and the teen was especially vulnerable to the pressures of the detectives' allegedly aggressive questioning.

By the end of his interrogation, Korey had given both a written and a videotaped confession. The details in his statements didn't match the details of the actual crime, and Korey would later say that the police, led by head of the Manhattan D.A.'s sex crimes unit Linda Fairstein, coerced him into submitting a false confession.

Despite the lack of solid evidence, all five boys were ultimately found guilty of various charges of rape and assault in the Central Park Jogger case. But unlike the other four teens, who were tried as minors and sentenced to five to 10 years in a youth correctional facility (where they could be held until they turned 21), Korey was sentenced to five to 15 years — all of which were to be spent in an adult prison.

The teenager was initially sent to Rikers Island, the infamous New York City jail. And as is shown in the fourth and final episode of When They See Us, it was a rough time for him: Just a kid thrust into a group of adult criminals, Korey was subject to great violence and abuse during his time there and in other federal prisons. He also spent several long periods of his incarceration locked away in solitary confinement.

Eventually, Korey met murderer and serial rapist Matias Reyes in prison, and Matias confessed to be to being the actual, lone perpetrator of the Central Park Jogger rape. A DNA test (along with Matias's knowledge of the details of the crime) confirmed his guilt, and in 2002, Korey was released from prison. By that time, he had served 12 years.

Today, Korey still lives in New York City, where he works as a public speaker and criminal justice activist. In 2015, he donated $190,000 to the University of Colorado's chapter of the Innocence Project, which then changed its name to the Korey Wise Innocence Project at Colorado Law in his honor.

To this day, Korey's friend Yusef says he still feels "pain" for unintentionally bringing Korey into the Central Park Jogger case — and the release of Netflix's When They See Us only amplifies that feeling.

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