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 Walke,r and Darryl Boyd, two of the last three surviving members of a group of five poverty stricken 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 found robbed, and beaten nearly to death, in the rear of his Fillmore Avenue driveway, in Buffalo, after leaving the Golden Nugget Bar, a saloon located directly across the street from Crawford's former single-family residence. Tyrone Woodruff, one of the wrongly targeted youths who, later, in both 1985 and 2010, would give sworn testimony that he had been intimidated, threatened, coerced, and manipulated by Buffalo Police at the time of the boys' 1976 detainment, insists that he ultimately gave authorities a false confession. Woodruff is adamant that he only did so, after having been subjected to countless hours of abusive police interrogation. He also falsely accused his four young friends.
Though authorities declined to prosecute Woodruff, they did prosecute the four falsely accused youths, and indicted, and tried, them all, in 1977. Three of the hapless youths, Walker, Boyd, and Gibson, were represented by public defenders. All but one were convicted, and were sentenced to lengthy terms in adult population New York State prisons. However, their friend, Floyd Martin, whose family could afford to hire a private attorney to represent their son, was acquitted of all charges. The 'sensational' trials were presided over by all-white jurists, and were decided by all-white juries. Both Gibson and Martin are both 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, behind bars. Half a decade later, during the late 1990s, after their releases under lifetime parole conditions, Walker first, and later Boyd as well, began trying to raise public awareness of their wrongful conviction, and convicted felon, statuses. The wrongly convicted men 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 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 did in fact vacate their wrongful 1977 convictions. Moreover, on Thursday, September 23, 2021, Justice Burns also dismissed the underlying wrongful charge Walker and Boyd had been convicted concerning, which was Erie County Indictment Number 41-413.
John Walker, Darryl Boyd, and their childhood friend Tyrone 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. Today, the men of 'The Buffalo 5' hope to share The Buffalo 5 Story with a wider, international, audience, as a means of promoting awareness of (1) the prevalence of wrongful convictions in the US, and (2) to reveal the plight of easily intimidated and impoverished youths who all too often do in fact succumb to pressure imposed upon they during abusive interrogations, and end up falsely incriminating themselves. The men also intend to make the most of their newfound freedom, by starting initiatives and programs that involve they, and others, mentoring inner-city youths.
Got a great idea for an Upstate Western New York Region news story? Email me: SherrySherrill@Gmail.Com
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