The primary principle of the American Justice System is “innocent until proven guilty.”

This tenant of justice is meant to give equal and fair representation to those accused of crimes in the cases where they are innocent of said crimes and can be justifiably proven so in a court of law.

Simply charging someone of something cannot be enough to force a conviction of the crime because as much as legal experts are relied on for being right, sometimes, in the heat of the search and the desperation for results, they get it wrong.

A breakout case knowing as the “Central Park Jogger Case” put this tenant of justice in the spotlight, as multiple convictions were made in pursuit of a single criminal, all of which resulted in false accusations.

The culprit, Matias Reyes, was not apprehended for the crime until authorities were ready to close the case and settle on convicting five innocent men for his crimes, and this fact wasn’t found out until years later.

This flaw in the justice system shook the faith of an entire city’s community.

If they were that wrong, that many times, how many more innocent men would be jailed to spare the search for one guilty party?

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10 /10 Unseen Youth

Matias Reyes was born in Puerto Rico in 1971, where he had a primarily undocumented youth, with some notable punctuations in his behavior.

Ever since he was young, he was described as exhibiting violent behavior, which he blamed on his sexual abuse as a child.

He moved out of his mother’s home when he was a teenager and began an impoverished life of low-income wages and habitual crime sprees.

9 /10 Brutalized Beginnings

Reyes started his crime spree formally in 1988. At 17, he began stalking women through the streets and held them up with a knife to rape them.

His first target, a 27-year-old woman, talked him out of raping her, and he let her go. Unfortunately, this was the last time his attempt would fail.

His next victim was beaten and raped in northern Central Park. He fled when he was spotted. Though he was seen, he ran his home and reportedly moved away from being seen or caught.


8 /10 The Central Park Jogger

The famous victim, Trisha Meili, was a 28-year-old investment banker who was jogging in Central Park when Reyes beat and raped her, then left her for dead.

She was found and saved hours later, and the police began hunting for her attacker.

Claims spread that the crime was perpetrated by a group of attackers, which police substantiated in their reports.

All the while, Reyes lived out of a van, worked in a deli, and was not found or hunted for the crime as the city was lit up over the vicious attack.

7 /10 East Side Slasher

Through the rest of 1989, he continued to perpetuate more devious crimes increasingly, earning himself the name of the “East Side Slasher.”

He broke into people’s homes and held up women to beat and rape them, adding burglary to his already grievous list of crimes.

One of his victims managed to escape and got help from the building tenants and crew, who subdued Reyes until the police arrested him.

They figured out that he was a repeat offender, but at this point, they didn’t know he was the main suspect of the Jogger case.

6 /10 Caught Early

Reyes was caught and incarcerated that same year for murder, five rapes, and two attempted rapes.

He pled guilty and was sent to serve 33 to life in prison. Though he had been caught, the Central Park Jogger case persisted, which he did not learn of for many years, and which started a condemning tour of legal force that exemplified the flaws of the rushed justice system.

New York City Law Department

5 /10 Central Park Five

Multiple arrests were made. As many as 20 teenagers in the area and within reach of the attack were accosted by police.

These included Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, and many, many others.

Hours later, police also took in another group, including Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise.

These boys were between 14 and 15, except for Wise, who was 16 and tried as an adult.

4 /10 The New York Process

Two days after the arrests, the police confirmed that at least 12 individuals were responsible for the near murder of Trisha Meili and that five would be going to jail.

For over a decade, these Central Park Five became the face of terror in teenage form for the whole of New York City.

Four of the boys confessed to attacks done in the park, but none of them could accurately place themselves near The Jogger case, which made their initial plea deals sour.

None of their DNA samples were gathered from the crime scene, but their results were ruled as “inconclusive” by the police.


3 /10 Exoneration

The boys were all sent to juvenile detention and served six years on average, except for Wise.

He was tried and punished as an adult and was sentenced to 6-15 years for sexual abuse, assault, and riot.

It took 12 years for justice to be served. In 2002, Wise was moved to Auburn State Correctional Facility, where he met with Matias Reyes.

The actual perpetrator met the one who took the blame, and it was then that Reyes decided to confess to the truth.


2 /10 After The Facts

The fallout of the case was criticized as early as 1991, where Joan Didion argued that the convictions were wrongfully born from a cultural crisis of prejudice, passing the wrongdoings of the city and its systems onto five boys regardless of their innocence.

The beliefs of the Central Park Five were vacated in 2002, following Reyes’ confession, and Wise was released.

DNA results finally came back, which were linked directly to Reyes, thus proving his guilt once and for all.


1 /10 When They See Us

A true-crime drama mini-series titled When They See Us aired on Netflix told the story of these wrongful convictions, how race and culture highlighted them, the destruction of the five innocents who were convicted, and how the justice system failed them all at the same time.

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