Korey Wise is a member of the Central Park Five, a group of four black men and one hispanic man who were wrongfully convicted for the brutal rape of the Central Park Jogger (Trisha Meili) in 1989. Wise, who was 16 at the time, was the only one of the five to be tried and convicted as an adult. Therefore, while the other boys got five to seven years in prison, Wise had a much longer and harsher prison experience.
In Sarah Burns’ book, The Central Park Five, she details Wises’ learning disability, which “limited his achievement in school,” as well as the hearing problems he had “from an early age.” These factors contributed to his eventually confessing a crime to police that he didn’t do.
As Esquire notes, Wise was interrogated by police throughout the night, after coming to the police station initially just as a support system for his friend, Yusef Salaam. He eventually provided two statements, one written and one videotaped. The details in his confession did not at all match the facts of the case.
Wise spent fourteen years in jail, but he’s since been released and fully exonerated. Here’s what you need to know:
Korey Wise Confession Tape: WATCH
In the video above, Wise admits to having witnessed the attack on Meili from behind a tree; there was no applicable tree at the crime scene, not like the one he describes. He also said Meili was cut with a knife, but really her injuries all stemmed from blunt trauma.
Still Wise, was convicted and sentenced to up to fifteen years in prison. Including the years in prison he spent awaiting trial, Wise served fourteen years.
It was Wise who had a random encounter with Matias Reyes in the prison year of Auburn Correctional Facility in New York in 2001. His conversation with Reyes in prison would eventually lead to Reyes’ conviction in the case, and Wise’s total exoneration.
According to Vanity Fair, Wise spent a portion of his prison time at Rikers Island, and experienced years of violence, solitary confinement, abuse, and rarely received visits from his family. Director DuVernay told the publication that Wise is a “walking miracle,” saying,
I’ve never met anyone like him. Every time I sit with him and every time I talk to him, I think, How are you walking and talking? When you hear, see what he’s gone through, he’s a walking miracle, he really is. And he’s really brilliant. I call him ‘the Prophet,’ because you sit down with Korey for a while and you come away with some gems. I’m lucky that I have that.”
In an interview with The New York Times, Wise explained what it was like to see his story told again. He said, “This is life after death. I always say that. From now on I know what Biggie was talking about. There’s life after death.” He added, “This series is talking to my pain. I’m enjoying it; at the same time, it hurts. But I guess when it comes down to it — people are going to enjoy it. They’re going to enjoy this summer blockbuster.”