Raymond Santana graciously visited Davidson to speak about his experiences in being wrongfully accused, convicted, and continually doubted even following his exoneration. He spoke of the injustices he faced in 1989 as a fourteen year old boy. Many of his doubters asked him, “How do you confess to things you didn’t do?” He sees this questions as largely dismissive of the reality they faced. He was questioned along with Yusef, Antron, Korey, and Kevin for approximately thirty hours on end with no sleep and no food or water to sustain his body. Additionally, the power dynamic created a fear of the unknown within him because he was not educated on his rights. The interrogators removed all safety and familiarity from the boys’ surroundings by isolating them in questioning rooms without their families for hours on end until the boys finally cracked in hopes of being anywhere but the room they were stuck sitting in. This created a seed of desperateness within the boys that the interrogators fed on by crafting a “good cop bad cop” dynamic to coerce the boys into lying to a savior figure and creating a fed-fact testimony that the boys themselves did not write. No other evidence surfaced against the Exonerated Five aside from their coerced testimonies, but nonetheless the policemen continued to “shove a square peg in a round hole” to close the case.
After years of injustice and then finally being exonerated, the previously incarcerated are left with the question: how do you reclaim your life? Santana believes that you need to not only tell your story, but also dig for a deeper underlying truth. Investing time and love into the youth in order to mold them into considerate leaders and makers of change is Santana’s vision for changing the system from within. He argues that we must plant seeds of strength in our children because even if we cannot sit under the shade of their trees, somebody will reap the benefits.