The men known as the Central Park Five are getting accolades from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
Actor Michael B. Jordan presented Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray and Raymond Santana with the Roger Baldwin Courage Award at the ACLU SoCal’s 25th Annual Luncheon, according to The Associated Press.
Salaam was emotional accepting the award on behalf of Ava DuVernay, who directed Netflix’s “When They See Us.” The series chronicles how they were wrongly convicted of rape and attempted murder of a jogger in New York City’s Central Park as teenagers in 1989.
"I'm not ashamed to cry in front of you," Salaam said. "Our story is a story of an egregious miscarriage of justice."
Salaam also addressed how they were unfairly portrayed in the media.
"They had published our names, our phone numbers, and our addresses in New York City's newspapers. Imagine the horror of that," he recalled.
The series also received the Social Responsibility in the Media Award.
Jordan admitted he cannot watch the series without seeing himself in their shoes.
"It's dangerous in America when you're living in a black body," Jordan said.
Each of the men served between six and 13 years in prison.
They were exonerated after another inmate, Matias Reyes, noticed that Wise was still incarcerated for his crime. Reyes, a convicted serial rapist and murderer, was already serving life in prison and confessed, saying he acted alone. DNA testing confirmed his admission.
In 2002, Salaam, Santana, Wise, Raymond and McCray were exonerated. They sued the city and eventually settled for $41 million in 2014.
The series has also brought about renewed interest in Linda Fairstein, who was the lead sex crimes prosecutor at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office at the time. She is facing harsh criticism for how she handled the case 30 years ago. An online movement, #CancelLindaFairstein, has been gaining traction.
Fairstein, who went on to become a successful crime author, has been dropped by her publisher. "I can confirm that Linda Fairstein and Dutton have decided to terminate their relationship. We have no further comment," Dutton Publicity Director Amanda Walker told the BBC.
Fairstein has also stepped down from several boards she served on.
DuVernay said Fairstein would not meet with her about the series unless Fairstein could approve the scripts.
Fairstein maintains that is not true. She said the way she was depicted was "grossly and maliciously inaccurate.”