By Sherry Sherrill
Saturday, September 11, 2021, BUFFALO, NY, USA- On Wednesday, August 18, 2021, New York State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns overturned the wrongful 1977 convictions of John Walker and Darryl Boyd, two of the last three surviving members of a group of five poor 16-year-old African American youths who, in 1976, were wrongly targeted by the Buffalo (NY) Police Department and the County Of Erie's District Attorney's Office.
The five youths were named John Walker, Darryl Boyd, Darryn Gibson, Floyd Martin, and Tyrone Woodruff. In 2020, in the Upstate Western New York Region where the City Of Buffalo is located, these became referred to as The Buffalo 5.
After having been wrongly profiled and falsely accused back in 1976, the youths were pursued in connection with the robbery and murder of a 62-year-old Caucasian man named William Crawford. Crawford was robbed and beaten to death in the rear of his Fillmore Avenue driveway, in Buffalo, after leaving the Golden Nugget Bar, which was and is located directly across the street from Crawford's former single-family residence. One of the youths, Tyrone Woodruff, who, in 1985 and 2010 would give sworn testimony that he had been intimidated, threatened, coerced, and manipulated by Buffalo Police, made a false confession, and in turn, falsely accused his four young friends.
The four accused youths were indicted and tried, in 1977. Three of the youths, Walker, Boyd, and Gibson, were all convicted and sentenced to lengthy terms in adult population New York State prisons. Floyd Martin was acquitted of all charges. The three had public defenders, while Martin's family hired a private attorney. The trials were presided over by all-white jurists and were decided by all-white juries. Both Gibson and Martin are now deceased, with Gibson having succumbed to a massive heart attack a mere eight months after spending 32 years in prison.
Walker and Boyd spent 22 and 27 1/2 years, respectively. Half a decade after their own releases, under lifetime parole conditions, during the late 1990s, Walker first, and later Boyd as well, began trying to raise public awareness of their wrongful conviction and convicted felon statuses. They had only gained a measure of freedom when they were finally released from prison, and they longed to have their names cleared.
In October 2020, renowned Buffalo criminal defense attorney Paul Cambria agreed to take Walker's and Boyd's case, and filed at New York State Supreme Court in Buffalo, to have their wrongful convictions vacated. On Wednesday, August 18, 2021, after 44 years of Walker and Boyd having lived with the burden, stigma, and trauma of wrongful conviction and convicted felon statuses, NYS Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns vacated their convictions.
Walker, Boyd, and their childhood friend Woodruff have remained in constant contact over the past decade. Woodruff even attended some of the numerous public rallies organized by Walker and Boyd in Buffalo, down through the years. Now, Walker and Boyd hope to share The Buffalo 5 Story with a wider audience, to promote awareness of the prevalence of wrongful convictions in the US, and as an opportunity to mentor inner-city youth.
Got a great idea for an Upstate Western New York Region news story? Email me: SherrySherrill@Gmail.Com
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