A Quick Look Into The Life of Korey Wise: Being Falsely Accused While The Victim Wanted The Case To Go On

Korey Wise

Korey Wise became an infamous name in the 80s and more recently on Netflix after he was involved with “The Central Park Jogger Case”. The case followed the criminal assault and rape of Trisha Meili, a 28-year-old white woman in the US who was jogging in the park. In addition to her assault, there were attacks on eight other people, on the night of April 19, 1989. Among the victims was John Loughlin, a 40-year-old schoolteacher, who was severely beaten and robbed between 9:40 and 9:50. Trisha Meili was horrifically injured but survived after she was in a coma for 12 days. She and others were allegedly attacked by a loose group of 30–32 teenagers and police attempted to apprehend suspects after crimes began to be reported between 9 and 10 p.m. 

Trisha Meili’s body wasn’t identified until 1:30 a.m. on April 20th, after her discovery the urgency of police increased. The cops took 14 or more other suspects over the next few days and arrested a total of ten suspects who were ultimately tried for the attacks. Among the 14 suspects Antron McCray,  Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise (then known as Kharey Wise), were brought in for questioning later that day (April 20), after having been identified by other youths in the large group as participants in or present at some of the attacks on other victims. Korey Wise said he had not been involved, and accompanied Salaam because they were friends.

They were indicted on May 10 on charges of assault, robbery, riot, rape, sexual abuse, and attempted murder of Meili and an unrelated man, John Loughlin.

The New York Times in 1990 described “The Central Park Jogger Case” as “one of the most widely publicized crimes of the 1980s”, and yet in 2019, Trisha Meili said: ‘I so wish the case hadn’t been settled’. So what happened? And did Korey Wise who was just accompanying Salaam say the truth or lie? 

The Life of Korey Wise: Being Falsely Accused While The Victim Wanted The Case To Go On

Who is Korey Wise?

On April 19, 1989, 28-year-old Meili went on a run in Central Park after a 12-hour work day working at the Wall Street investment bank Salomon Brothers. Running was a part of her daily routine. The jogger later said she had an eating disorder and exercised compulsively at that time in her life. On April 20th, two men found Meili naked, bound, and gagged in a ravine in the 102nd Street Transverse, a wooded area in the northern section of the park. Meili had been severely beaten. 

Plastic surgeon Dr. Jane Haher told ABC News’ “20/20” that she’s never forgotten that day.

“I have seen traumatized patients many, many times. But I have never seen somebody, like, destroyed,” Haher said. “Her body was just so swollen — unrecognizable, really.”

The force of her assault left her eye socket crushed, so much so that her eyeball had exploded into the thin plates of her orbital floor, Haher said and she also sustained a skull fracture. Doctors at the Metropolitan Hospital didn’t expect her to survive and told her family that if she awoke, she would be a vegetable. Miraculously, after 12 days in a coma, Meili woke up. Most importantly, she did not remember anything from the attack, so no one really knows what happened. While she was in a coma, a case was being built against five Harlem boys of color, aged 14 to 16, who had been in Central Park that evening with a group of 30 to 40 other teens. Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise maintained their innocence throughout their trials, but were coerced into giving false confessions by police before being sentenced for a crime they did not commit. 

Netflix’s miniseries: When They See Us follows what actually happened in the Central Park Jogger case. Although the reality of their stories are all tragic, perhaps the most tragic of all is that of then 16-year-old Korey Wise, which the final episode of the show focuses on.

What happened to Korey Wise in 1989?

As soon as Meili was found, police rounded up a number of black and Latino youths as suspects. Korey Wise’s friend Yusef Salaam was called in for questioning. As a sign of support, Korey decided to accompany his friend, making one of the biggest mistakes of his life  as the police ended up pulling him into the interrogation room as well.

At 16, Korey Wise admitted his age, allowing the cops to legally be questioned by detectives without the supervision of a parent or guardian. Combine this with the fact that Korey struggled with hearing issues and a learning disability, and the teen was a perfect fit for the pressures of the detectives’ allegedly aggressive questioning. This made it very easy for him to be pressured, coerced and manipulated.

Police questioned Wise throughout the night until he produced four different statements, two written and two video confessions. The details he offered did not match the facts of the case, but the desperate prosecution, spearheaded by Assistant District Attorney Linda Fairstein, went ahead and pursued his conviction, along with that of McCray, Richardson, Salaam and Santana.

By the end of his interrogation, Korey had given both a written and a videotaped confession. The details in his statements didn’t match the details of the actual crime, and Korey would later say that the police, led by the head of the Manhattan D.A.’s sex crimes unit Linda Fairstein, coerced him into submitting a false confession. 

After 10 days of deliberations, Salaam, Santana and McCray, all 16 years old at the time, were convicted of rape, assault and robbery in the attack on Meili. After a separate trial, in December 1990, Wise was found guilty of sexual abuse, first degree assault and riot. Richardson was also found guilty on all charges.

McCray, Richardson, Santana and Salaam got five to 10 years in prison as juveniles. But Wise’s age meant that he was the only one of the five who did not go to a juvenile center. Instead, he was sent to Rikers Island, where he suffered horrific violence and abuse, as well as lengthy periods in solitary confinement during his 12 years behind bars. At prison Korey Wise also found out that Marci Wise, his transgender sister who was kicked out of the family home for wearing women’s clothes, had been murdered.

How did Korey Wise help solve his case?

Korey Wise’s trajectory was different from his friends because he, the oldest of the 5, was not sent to juvie. Instead, he was sent to Rikers Island and later to the Auburn Correctional Facility. In 2001 Korey Wise would go on to meet Matias Reyes, a serial rapist and the real murderer who admitted to attacking Trisha Meili back in 1989. This freak encounter and confession led to the five being exonerated after being released from prison in 2002! 

A DNA test in addition to Matias’s knowledge of the details of the crime) confirmed his guilt, and in 2002, Korey was released from prison unfortunately by that time, he had wrongly served 12 years.

PC: Netflix, Getty Images

But the victim: Trisha Meili wishes the case hadn’t been settled. The real rapist has come forward and the wrongfully accused got a million dollars as compensation. So why does she want the case to go on? The truth is that the case has more details that are missing. 

Why did the victim want her case to go on?

Back in 1989, the prosecutors had no DNA and little evidence that matched the teenagers to the crime, the attack, or the scene. But each teenager — except for Salaam — had made statements or open confessions about Meili’s attack, implicating themselves or each other.

“Kevin Richardson had a scratch under his eye, so the detectives asked him, ‘How did you get the scratch under your eye?'” said former New York City detective Eric Reynolds. Richardson replied on the videotaped interrogation:

Richardson: I got in the way. She got kind of like scratched me a little bit.

Prosecutor Elizabeth Lederer: Let me just ask you, you’re saying that she scratched you and you’re indicating a place on your face?

Richardson: Yeh, I think it’s on me right here.

Reyes, who had been given the nickname “East Side Rapist” for a series of violent rapes along Madison Avenue in the spring and summer of 1989, had also attacked a woman in the park a few days prior to — and not far from — the April 19 attack on Meili. So this was a calculated pattern, adding weight to the title of “serial” rapist. 

“I always knew that there was at least one more person involved because there was unidentified DNA,” Meili said. “So when I heard the news that there was an additional person found whose DNA matched, that wasn’t a tremendous surprise. But when he said that he and he alone had done it, that’s when some of the turmoil started, wondering ‘Well, how can that be?'”

Meili and her doctors Kurtz and Haher said there was medical evidence to support the charge that more than one person was responsible for her attack. Her wounds were different from what Reyes claimed as the sole attacker, Meili said.

“There were hand prints pressed into her skin that looked red in outline,” Kurtz said.

Her doctor said the hand prints were also of different sizes. “It looks like, to me, more than one person doing that”. Today, another rapist roams freely. 

General Trivia: 

Where was Korey Wise born?

In 1973, Korey Wise was born in Harlem, New York City, New York. During his childhood, Wise became a truant due to being threatened by other students, and he missed school for all of April 1989 when the “The Central Park Jogger Case” began.

Who played Korey Wise in when they see us?

PC: Netflix

Jharrel Jerome played the role of Korey Wise in When They See Us. The miniseries is based on true events of the April 19, 1989 Central Park jogger case and explores the lives of the five black suspects related to the sexual assault of a female victim. 

On the show, both teen Korey and adult Korey are played by 21-year-old Jharrel Jerome, who is now nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for his performance. During an interview with Newsweek before the show’s release, Jharrel Jerome, who plays Korey Wise in the show, talked about what it was like meeting him in preparation for the role.

“It was unreal. I was terrified to meet him just because this is the man I’m going to portray, and I don’t know how to speak to somebody who’s lived a life like that because I’ve never met anyone like that,” he said.

“The second I met him, he took his chain off and put it around my neck, and he said, ‘You’re Korey Wise now.’ That put everything into perspective for me about the kind of man he is. It’s all strength, it’s all power. He’s all bright. I still see 16-year-old Korey inside of him,” Jerome added.

How much money did Korey Wise get?

After Korey was released from prison and then-District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau vacated all of the Central Park Five’s charges, three of falsely accused men: Antron, Kevin, and Raymond, filed a lawsuit against the city of New York for malicious prosecution, racial discrimination, and emotional distress. 

The case was settled for $41 million in 2014, but it took more than a decade and the election of a new mayor (Bill de Blasio).  And as the man who had wrongfully served the most time in prison, Korey received the largest portion of the settlement: $12.2 million. 

At the end of the day, however, Korey still served more than a decade in prison as an innocent man, and he knows that those are years that the settlement won’t give him back: “You can forgive, but you won’t forget,” he says in Sarah and Ken Burns’ 2012 documentary, The Central Park Five. “You won’t forget what you lost. No money could bring that time back. No money could bring the life that was missing or the time that was taken away.”

Korey donated $190,000 to the University of Colorado Innocence Project to help others who have been wrongfully convicted.

How old is Korey Wise now?

47 years (26 July 1972)

What does Korey Wise suffer from?

Korey Wise suffered from hearing problems and learning difficulties, making it easier for him to be pressured and coerced into a confession. Police questioned Wise throughout the night until he produced four different statements, two written and two video confessions.

What is Korey Wise doing today?

PC: Getty Images

Today, Korey still lives in New York City, where he works as a public speaker and criminal justice activist. In 2015, he donated $190,000 to the University of Colorado’s chapter of the Innocence Project, which then changed its name to the Korey Wise Innocence Project at Colorado Law in his honor. To this day, Korey’s friend Yusef says he still feels “pain” for unintentionally bringing Korey into the Central Park Jogger case — and the release of Netflix’s When They See Us only amplifies that feeling.

Despite all that Korey has been through, however, the now-46-year-old keeps a surprisingly positive attitude — something that Jharrel Jerome, the actor who plays Korey Wise in When They See Us, noticed immediately upon meeting him. 

“I was terrified to meet him just because this is the man I’m going to portray, and I don’t know how to speak to somebody who’s lived a life like that because I’ve never met anyone like that,” Jharrel, who is nominated for an Emmy for his role, told Newsweek in a May interview. “The second I met him, he took his chain off and put it around my neck, and he said, ‘You’re Korey Wise now.’ That put everything into perspective for me about the kind of man he is. It’s all strength, it’s all power. He’s all bright.”

How long did Korey Wise stay in jail?

Korey spent approximately 14 years incarcerated after convictions for crimes which were subsequently overturned, and maintained his innocence from 1989 until he was exonerated in 2002.

What happened to Korey Wise girlfriend Lisa Williams?

Lisa tried to discourage Korey from going to Central Park on the night he made the biggest mistake of his life. Ava DuVernay revealed Korey’s girlfriend passed away while he was serving a 13-year prison sentence for a crime he did not commit. She went on to say Korey always shows respect to her whenever he speaks about her.

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