A sixth teenager was arrested in the infamous Central Park jogger case in 1989. Steven Lopez was only 15 years old when he was arrested and indicted along with other teens for the rape and attempted murder of Trisha Meili. Monday, Lopez’s conviction will be overturned, allowing him to join the exonerated five in freedom, according to The New York Times.
At this point, we have an understanding of how Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise were coerced into giving false confessions that landed them in prison on wrongful convictions. However, Lopez’s story went overlooked in the midst of the high-profile trials.
According to the report, Lopez never went to trial with the other five but was charged with the same crimes. He struck a deal with the prosecutors to avoid trial and was convicted of assaulting and robbing a male jogger instead.
More on Lopez from The Associated Press:
Lopez, now 48, served about three years in prison before being released in the early 1990s. A message was left with his lawyer on Monday seeking comment.
The Central Park Five, now known as the “Exonerated Five,” went on to win a $40 million settlement from the city and inspire books, movies and television shows.
Lopez has not received a settlement, and his case has been nearly forgotten in the years since he pleaded guilty to robbery in 1991 to avoid the more serious rape charge. His expected exoneration was first reported in The New York Times.
“We talk about the Central Park Five, the Exonerated Five, but there were six people on that indictment,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg told the Times. “And the other five who were charged, their convictions were vacated. And it’s now time to have Mr. Lopez’s charge vacated.”
Lopez’s story was most likely lost due to the media coverage of the Exonerated Five as well as the magnitude of the charges they faced. However, Lopez is an example of how cops will try to put Black and brown people away for just about anything.
According to the National Registry of Exonerations, over 3,175 people have been wrongfully convicted since 1989 - the same year the Central Park jogger case happened. An overwhelming amount of those convictions were Black and brown people. The Equal Justice Initiative found Black people made up about 47 percent of exonerations and 50 percent more likely to be innocent when convicted of murder.
It’s documented with data that this criminal justice system is built to work against us.