Beverly White, David Gregory
Part of the Central Park Five -- a group of wrongly convicted teens from New York City -- Kevin Richardson and Raymond Santana were in Los Angeles Friday to raise awareness about their experiences as a documentary chronicling their time behind bars is released. Beverly White reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Nov. 30, 2012.
Now 38 years old, Kevin Richardson and Raymond Santana are free men after having been wrongly convicted in 1989 with three other teens of raping a New York City woman, dubbed by the media as the Central Park Jogger.
After intense police questioning, all five confessed. They soon recanted but still went to prison.
"We were both fourteen at that time, and those were good years," said Raymond Santana. "You come into who you're gonna be, your manhood, and your parents, they teach you all the morals and their values. All that was stolen, and it was replaced with prison time."
The group became known as the Central Park Five, and on Friday night, two of them were in Los Angeles for a screening of a new documentary by the same name. The film was created by Ken and Sarah Burns.
"Just for an adult to go through this, but a frail 14-, 15-year-old kid, it was overwhelming," said Kevin Richardson.
The group’s convictions were vacated in 2002 when another man claimed to have committed the crime and DNA evidence confirmed his confession. Co-director David McMahon said the documentary is an opportunity for the Central Park Five to finally receive vindication.
"In 1989 they were so savaged by the press, and that contributed to their convictions,” McMahon said. “Now for the first time, they would be able to tell their own story in their own words.”
Richardson said he’s speaking out in the hopes of preventing a similar tragedy.
"We're out here speaking to everyone and raising awareness to everybody,” he said. “We're just making sure that it won't happen to any other kids."
"Teach their kids how to conduct themselves when they're in front of police, and learn procedures so we don't have another Central Park Five," Santana added.
The men find audiences receptive to the film, and hope its lessons resonate beyond the Big Apple.
"A little advice: Wait. Hear all the evidence before you come to a conclusion," said Mel Kay of West LA, "because you really screw up people's lives."