Jul 5, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Yusef Salaam, wrongfully convicted member of Central Park Five, won New York City Council primary

Korey Wise, Raymond Santana Jr., Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, and Kevin Richardson (left to right) of the "Central Park Five" speak onstage at the 2019 BET Awards in Los Angeles. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Yusef Salaam, who was wrongfully convicted in the Central Park Five trial, has won a Democratic primary for a New York City Council seat, the Associated Press called on Wednesday.

Driving the news: He will likely win the seat and represent District 9 in Harlem, the AP writes.

Context: Salaam, found guilty in 1990, was one of five Black and Latino teenagers wrongfully convicted in the case. The Central Park Five later became known as the Exonerated Five.

  • "The investigation of the convictions of these five teenagers has raised questions regarding police coercion and false confessions, as well as, the vulnerability of juveniles during police interrogations," the Innocence Project said.
  • Matias Reyes, a convicted murderer and rapist, admitted in 2002 that he was responsible for the woman's attack. DNA testing linked Reyes to the crime, and he is currently serving a life sentence in prison.

Salaam's campaign was centered on advocating for people typically cast to the side by political processes, he said on his campaign website.

  • "As a victim of a broken criminal justice system, I understand the challenges faced by those who are marginalized and neglected by the powers that be," he wrote.
  • Salaam was inspired by the Bible and Quran story of Joseph, who was falsely accused of attempted rape and sent to prison and then became a great statesman, he said on Wednesday. Salaam was named after this prophet, whose path he sees as similar to his own, he said.
  • Since 2002, he has advocated for criminal justice reform, prison reform and the abandonment of juvenile solitary confinement and capital punishment, his campaign website said.

By the numbers: District 9 is made up of more than 110,000 constituents, according to 2020 Census data.

  • 38.5% Hispanic/Latino (of any race)
  • 25.6% white, non-Hispanic
  • 21.1% Black, non-Hispanic
  • 9.8% Asian, non-Hispanic

Go deeper: Black Americans more likely to be wrongfully convicted

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