Flashpoint Extra: One of the 'Exonerated Five' speaks in Old City

Dr. Yusef Salaam (left) with Innocence Project leaders and exonerees
Photo credit Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — One of the five men who was exonerated years after being wrongfully convicted in the 1989 Central Park jogger case was the keynote speaker at the Pennsylvania Innocence Project gala in Old City.

"They were breaking each and every one of us down," said Dr. Yusef Salaam, as he was interviewed on stage at the National Constitution Center last week. Just 15 years old at the time of his wrongful conviction, Salaam discussed his police interrogation and why he was the only one among the so-called "Central Park Five," now known as the "Exonerated Five," who did not give a false confession. 

"Had they had enough time with me, I may have folded," he said.

He credited his mother, who told him to stop talking to police.

“My mother came to my rescue....she said stop talking to them...they need to you to participate in whatever it is that they are trying to do. Refuse.” @dr_yusefsalaam on why he was the only one of #exonerated5 that did not give a false confession. @innocencepa #WhenTheySeeUs pic.twitter.com/jOZGHzwfo7

— Cherri Gregg (@cherrigregg) October 30, 2019

Salaam, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana Jr. and Korey Wise were exonerated in 2002, and the city settled with the group in 2014 for $41 million, after years of fighting.

"They didn't want to give us a dime," he said.

This past May, their story was told in "When They See Us," a multi-part Nexflix series by director Ava DuVernay. And Salaam, a published poet, speaker and activist, is now using his platform to make change.

"The system was designed and operating the way it is designed to be operating," he said. "There's a hidden agenda happening in the two agendas we are liviing in."

He says it's time to re-create the system.