'When They See Us' Highlights the Many Injustices Korey Wise Faced During the Central Park Jogger Case
If you haven't yet watched Ava DuVernay's four-part series, When They See Us on Netflix, it's a must. It offers a sobering look into the life of the so-called Central Park Five, who were wrongfully convicted of gang-raping a woman jogging through Central Park in 1989.
Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardon, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Korey Wise were all coerced into confessions that landed them behind bars for six to 13 years.
But Korey Wise, the oldest of the lot, was sentenced to more than 13 years in violent adult prisons. So, who was he, who plays him and where is he now? Keep reading to find out.
Korey Wise was just 16 years old when he accompanied his friend Yusef Salaam to the police station.
If you've read up on the Central Park Five case or have already binged through the Netflix series, you might know that Wise wasn't originally a suspect in the Central Park crime.
As Sarah Burns wrote in her book The Central Park Five, Wise "had hearing problems from an early age, and a learning disability that limited his achievement in school." He was said to be a gentle, loving boy who was heavily manipulated by the police who were desperate to find a culprit (or several) in this heinous crime.
In fact, he wasn't even a suspect, initially. Rather, it was his friend Salaam whom police wanted to speak with following the rape of Trisha Meili. But once in custody, officers coerced Wise into giving four different confessions — two written and two videotaped.
The details he offered for the crime didn't match up with the facts of the case, but prosecutors were so eager to catch someone that he ended up serving close to 14 years in violent adult facilities, though DNA evidence would later fail to link him to the crime.
Who plays Korey Wise in When They See Us?
Although Ava casted a majority of younger unknown Black and Latino actors in her latest Netflix venture, the star who brings Wise to life might be a familiar face.
That's because he's played by Jharrel Jerome, AKA young Kevin from the Academy Award-winning Moonlight. For anyone who needs a refresher, that's protagonist Chiron's teenage love interest, whom he later connects with when they're both adults.
Who was Korey Wise's sister?
Wise had a transgender sister, who was murdered like many other trans women of color. Marci Wise, played by Isis King, was a mentor to her little brother, as we see in the fourth episode of When They See Us, when Wise is reminiscing on his family life after having heard of his sister's passing.
In a painful flashback, we watch as Korey and Marci's mom kicks Marci out of the house for wearing women's clothes. Although we don't get to see where she went after, we later learn her life was cut short, and that her identity likely had something to do with it.
"It's like a magnifying glass on the world right now, and not just my part, but the whole story," Isis said in an interview with PRIDE. "The whole story is relevant to right now, which is the crazy part."
Where is Korey Wise now?
Although Wise served the longest sentence of the five boys, his time in prison ultimately led to their exoneration. During Wise's time behind bars, he happened to meet Matias Reyes, who was serving a life sentence for multiple rapes and a murder.
Their chance encounter led Reyes to admit to the Central Park rape, and exonerated the so-called Central Park Five through DNA confirmation.
Wise was 30 when he was finally released. These days, he lives in the Bronx and often speaks on behalf of the Innocence Project.
In fact, he made a $190K endowment to the University of Colorado Innocence Project, which has since been renamed in his honor. This came after the five men were awarded $41 million, or $1 million for each year they were in prison, through a 2014 settlement with the City of New York.
Stream When They See Us on Netflix today.