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Justice For The Buffalo 5

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Buffalo, NY, USA--Back in 1976, right here inside the United States Of America, five (5) socioeconomically-disadvantaged African American teenagers suddenly found themselves wrongly targeted, and then falsely accused, and three convicted, of a very brutal robbery-homicide. The victim was an elderly Caucasian gentleman, whose name is Mr. William Crawford.

The Victim And The Crime
On the night of Friday, January 2nd, of that year, Mr. Crawford had spent the day visiting a couple of nearby saloons, in the vicinity of the City Of Buffalo (NY)'s Fillmore-Leroy Neighborhood. That area is also where Mr. Crawford lived, with his partially disabled wife, and he was well-known by (their) friends and neighbors. When he left The Golden Nugget Bar late that Friday night, Mr. Crawford had been headed for home, and, he had been accompanied by a nearby neighbor of his. That man, who is now deceased, was the last person to see William Crawford alive. The Golden Nugget was, and still is, located directly across the street from Mr. Crawford's (former) Fillmore Avenue residence. However, at some point between leaving The Gold Nugget, and arriving near the lower rear of the driveway of his single-family home, William Crawford was viciously assaulted. He was beaten, very brutally, and he was also robbed of the approximately $300 he had on his person. Moreover, the assailant(s) then left him for dead, right there in the lower rear section of his driveway,  not far from the residence's backdoor entrance. Mr. Crawford was found, mortally injured, during the early morning hours of Saturday, January 3rd, by his partially disabled wife. She then telephoned Buffalo Police.

The names of the five innocent Black youths who were wrongly blamed for the robbery and murder of Mr. Crawford, were: Darryn Gibson, John Walker, Darryl Boyd, Floyd Martin, and Tyrone Woodruff. Just 16-years-old at the time, this close-knit group of friends heard reports of the crime on local news broadcasts, and one day, saw media crews filming at the murder scene. Curious, they walked down Fillmore Avenue, to view the commotion up-close. One of the youths, Floyd, lived in a public housing development that, back then, was located near Kensington Avenue, just off Fillmore, and was within walking distance of the Golden Nugget. The name of that residential complex was Glenny Drive Apartments | BMHA. BMHA is the acronym of Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, which is the City Of Buffalo's public housing Agency. When the boys arrived near where the news crews were filming, they began 'mugging' for the television cameras. The boys would learn later, from a reputable source, that the Buffalo Police Department, which had prior contact with the boys, due to relatively minor criminal activities the youths had previously  been involved in, took an interest in them as possible suspects in the Crawford Murder, from that point forward. ​Moreover, an anonymous 'tip' caller (supposedly) telephoned Buffalo Police Headquarters, a few days after the robbery-murder, and named young Darryn Gibson as "the Assailant". Darryn was picked up, by Buffalo Police, almost immediately. Not very long at all thereafter, so were his four young friends. 

Youths Sometimes Give Police False Confessions
The police interrogation of one of the youths, in particular, was so very intense, so very relentless, so very manipulative, so very frightening, and so very coercive, that the youth, whose name is Tyrone Woodruff, broke down and gave authorities a false confession that not only implicated himself, it also falsely accused his four young friends! Darryn, John, Darryl, and Floyd, were each then systematically, and wrongfully: arrested, indicted and tried, at separate Proceedings, in 1977. Floyd, who was tried last, and whose family had hired James A.W. McLeod, a then private attorney who would later become a respected Buffalo City Court Judge, was acquitted. However, his three young friends, Darryn, John, and Darryl, who had all been represented at trial by court-appointed public defenders, were each convicted, one by one, and by all-white juries and jurists (judges). Furthermore, each of the three boys was then sentenced to, and for very lengthy prison terms, adult-population New York State prisons! ​

Despite the immediate efforts of each of the convicted boys' families to gain their son's release, subsequent filed Appeals and Motions were either denied outrightly by the courts, or were (otherwise) delayed, for very lengthy timeframes, by other factors. Altogether, Darryn was incarcerated for 34 years, John, for 22 years, and Darryl, for 27 1/2 years- and the latter which included additional years that were added onto Darryl's initial sentence, due to four relatively minor parole violations that have (since) been discontinued as legal Reason(s) to extend a prison sentence. Attica Correctional Facility, which just six years earlier had been the location of the bloodiest prison riot in U.S. history, is just one of the (several) maximum-security facilities that the three wrongly convicted youths were held in. ​ For decades.

Free At Last?
When John and Darryl were (finally) released to lifetime parole conditions, in and around the year 1998, first John, and then, later, Darryl also, began conducting public rallies, mainly in downtown Buffalo, in hopes that the Erie County (NY) District Attorney's Office might re-examine their wrongful 1977 convictions. Their hope was that the county's D.A. might then proceed to exonerate them, entirely. John and Darryl, who, in the Upstate and Western Region of the U.S. State Of New York, came to be (widely) referred to, in the media, as 'The Buffalo 5',  were joined at several of these events by Tyrone, their childhood friend, and who, long before then, had publicly recanted his false 1976 confession and false 1977 testimony, including via sworn testimony given during depositions administered to him in both Year 1985, and in Year 2010. In 2011, a promotional film titled "Justice Delayed: Moving Forward For Justice", featuring John, and written and produced by renowned criminologist and sociologist Dr. Peter K.B. St. Jean, was released, and to an (increasingly) compassionate, and outraged, regional audience in Upstate Western New York's metropolitan Buffalo-Niagara Region.

Note: The short film also features cameo appearances by both Mr. Jonathan L. Jackson, and the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., of the renowned Rainbow PUSH Coalition- of Chicago, Illinois, USA. The film was later retitled "Justice Delayed: The John Walker Story, Pt. I", and, later, "Moving Forward For Justice, Pt. II", its second installment, was written, created, filmed, produced, and released by Dr. Peter K.B. St. Jean, as well. 

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Watkins, longtime John Walker and Darryl Boyd friend (left), (The Buffalo 5's) Mr. John Walker (center), and (The Buffalo 5's) Mr. Darryl Boyd, (right), at a Summer 2021 rally on Fillmore Avenue, in Buffalo (NY)'s Fillmore-Leroy Neighborhood. 

The Difference That Community, And Community-focused Leadership, Can Make
However, nearly a decade later, some twenty years after their (initial) releases from prison, it took John's and Darryl's circumstance being directly brought to the attention of Paul J. Cambria, Jr., a renowned Buffalo criminal defense attorney, to finally get the wheels of justice turning in a truly transformative motion, for (both) John, and Darryl. The pair's exhaustive efforts, over the two decades after their releases, had gained the valuable support of several notable 'grassroots' level community-focused organizations, and activists, in Buffalo (NY), as well as in Chicago (IL). However, as fate would have it, it was, in particular, the (initial, and longtime) support of a pair of (widely) respected Black and African American Community Leaders- a pastor, and a public (elected) official- who would intervene in this Matter, on numerous occasions, that ultimately helped supercharge John's and Darryl's Liberation Effort(s). The politician, who is a (former) County Of Erie (NY) Legislator, (former) City Of Buffalo Common Council Member, and (former) Buffalo School Board Member, is a true community champion, and her name is The Honorable Betty Jean Grant. Grant, who is also a (longtime) community activist, initially encountered John's valiant and (at the time) solo Effort, while she still held that county-seated public elected office.

One of the (then) prominent pastor's, actually (now a) Bishop, and City Of Buffalo Common Council Member's name,  is The Honorable Darius G. Pridgen. Bishop Pridgen first met John, and Darryl, over a decade ago. These conscientious community Adovates, and several others community activist persons, and entities, (all) )helped to further John's and Darryl's "Freedom From Wrongful Conviction" Cause, and helped stem some of the raging tide of injustice that Darryn, Floyd, John, Darryl, and Tyrone (all) suffered, and that they are (all) yet suffering, due to the lasting impacts and effects of (coerced) False Confession, Wrongful Conviction, Wrongful Incarceration, and Wrongful Community Supervision (otherwise referred to, as: Parole) circumstances! Furthermore, The Buffalo 5's families suffered, too. Their (wrongly convicted) sons missed (nearly) all the marriages, separations, divorces, illnesses, operations, recoveries, reconciliations, child births, childhood developments, school report cards, Little League, NFL football games, high school basketball games, births, disagreements, reconciliations, college admissions, enrollments, graduations, first-time homeownership, business start-ups, relocations, family: picnics, barbecues, and trips, girlfriends, proms, weekend mornings mowing lawns, fellowshipping at church, or at neighborhood barbershops, hanging out at local malls, grocery shopping, sitting down together at home, as a family, or simply talking and sharing quiet or private conversation with their youthful (incarcerated) Loved One relatives, all these human relations possibilities were removed from the families' universes, as well. John's parents, for instance, grew weakened, sickened, and passed away, due to the unrelenting stress and (indescribable) pain and strain, of not being able to rescue their still-a-young-boy (wrongly) imprisoned son, from incarceration circumstances that saw the convicted Buffalo 5 youths being placed in close quarters proximity to persons guilty of extremely serious criminal acts.  Yet, even after the (imprisoned) men finally regained their (so-called) 'freedom', life was still (very) far from normal, for they. From lost jobs, to lost apartments, to an inability to (even) apply for, let alone actually stand any chance, on this Earth, of actually gaining either prospect, due to their having been forced to bear the label "ex-con"- you name it! It is called prejudice, discrimination, racism, economic marginalization, unjust legislation, 'scapegoating', unfairness, inequity, and Wrongful Conviction.

What Happens To A Dream Deferred?
These injuries include having been forced to endure (unjust) imprisonment, and over a period of several decades, not single-digit years, and which (unmerited) confinement began when they were (mere) teenagers; having been afflicted by unwarranted scrutiny and pressurized tactics inflicted by an out-of-control regional criminal justice system that had launched a (then) campaign to deliver and ensure that the harshest possible sentencing guidelines were sought after, and imposed by the courts, in juvenile-defendant Matters; having been unceremoniously and insensitively torn from their families- and, in John's instance, from a (then) extremely young son- as well as having been wrongly separated from their fellow-students, their educational institutions, their teachers, their neighborhoods, their communities, and, lastly but not least of all, their (respective, and collective) hopes, dreams, and aspirations. John had long hoped to become a pilot, in the U.S. Military, and Darryl, a professional Football Player.

From Boys To Men: Suddenly
Imagine being only 16 years old, and suddenly, one day, you are (abruptly) taken into police custody, meaning: literally, and physically, removed from inside your family's residence. Then, being forced under the woeful weight of (unearned) monumental stigma, including, being wrongfully labeled, and being coerced to falsely label one's self and one's best friends, "murderer(s)". Imagine, if you even can, at this point, what your city's police department wrongfully linking (young) you to a violent robbery-motivated murder, that neither you, or either of your best friends, had anything whatsoever to do with, and imagine that occurring after you've all been (wrongfully) profiled. That's wrongfully: profiled, identified, investigated, blamed/accused, arrested, indicted, jailed, tried, convicted, and imprisoned, until regaining your (so-called) 'freedom', over two decades later. What if  the (so-called) 'freedom' did not arrive until you had spent t͟w͟o, or t͟h͟r͟e͟e͟, decades in prison? What if, even after being (so-called) 'freed', you were then forced to endure l̳i̳f̳e̳t̳i̳m̳e̳ parole conditions? The Buffalo 5 were. Moreover, they also  were (wrongfully) labeled: 'murderers', 'convicts', 'convicted murderers', 'ex-cons', 'felons', 'convicted felons', and (even) 'snitch'. ​ ​

Over the course of the nearly 20 years between Year 2005 and Year 2021, the Honorable Darius G. Pridgen, who is and was (also) the Senior Pastor and Bishop of True Bethel Baptist Church, in Buffalo, not only invited both John and Darryl to speak before True Bethel's Congregation, on several occasions, he also hosted them on "Power To The People", his popular weekly radio show, with similar frequency. It was Bishop Pridgen who contacted Attorney Paul Cambria, during the (late) Summer of 2020, and asked if John and Darryl might be assisted toward gaining their Wrongful Conviction exonerations. Attorney Cambria did take John's and Darryl's Case. Legislator Betty Jean Grant, in similar fashion, frequently interviewed John and Darryl on radio programmes she sponsored and hosted. Moreover, other prominent community Individuals, including other pastors and community activists, also did likewise.

Timeline Of Some (Particularly) Noteworthy Events

Year
2005     
John Walker begins organizing and holding public rallies, in (hopeful) support of gaining assistance from Erie County (NY)'s D.A.

2007    
The Honorable Betty Jean Grant, (then) a County Of Erie Legislator, attends a community dinner/rally, and offers her support.  

2010   
Darryl Boyd joins John, in conducting public rallies held in hope to attract notice and to (hopefully) gain such focused assistance.
Renowned sociologist and criminologist Dr. Peter K.B. St. Jean creates the  film "Justice Delayed: The John Walker Story".

2011     
John and Darryl approach Pastor Darius G. Pridgen, and True Bethel Baptist Church's Congregation, for support and prayer(s).

2012   
Renowned sociologist and criminologist Dr. Peter K.B. St. Jean, writes, creates, and produces "Moving Forward For Justice, Pt. II". 

2020     
John and Darryl are interview guests on "The Red Black And Green Show". Its creator/co-host, is the Honorable Betty Jean Grant.
A (new) Motion To Vacate Judgment Of Conviction is filed, at New York State Supreme Court.
The Honorable James A.W. McLeod testifies concerning his belief in John's and Darryl's innocence.
(Former) Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron C. Lockwood, forwards a 1976 letter, written by (jailed) 16y.o. John, to the D.A.'s office.
John and Darryl continue to organize and conduct public rallies, in and throughout City Of Buffalo.
In addition to holding a radio-broadcasted public prayer vigil, John and Darryl involve the community in phoning the D.A.'s office. 

2021     
John's and Darryl's (1977) Wrongful Convictions are (finally) vacated! NYS Supreme Court Justice Christopher Burns, presided.
John's and Darryl's (1976) Wrongful Indictment, Erie County Number 41-413, is also (finally) dismissed!

Altogether, John Walker's and Darryl Boyd's NYS Wrongful Conviction Exonerations, took some forty-five (45) years. Repeat: 45 years! ​

Family Ties vs. Ties That Bind
It is noteworthy that the overturning of John Walker's and Darryl Boyd's wrongful convictions did not occur at the hands of the County Of Erie's District Attorney's Office's very under-utilized  Conviction Integrity Unit [CIU]. Established in 2018, the CIU has only contributed to vacating a single Wrongful Conviction. Moreover, even that (single) instance was greatly aided, by the volume of overwhelming national, and international, support that the actual Exoneree, whose name is Mr. Valentino Dixon, received. Furthermore, the familial connections that exist between the (current) Erie County District Attorney, and the D.A.'s Office whose administration was responsible for the (1976) prosecution of The Buffalo 5 youths. According to the current District Attorney, whose name is Mr. John Flynn, he (meaning: Mr. Flynn), is the maternal nephew of the late Edward C. Cosgrove, who was the county's District Attorney, back in 1976 and '77. Moreover, the Honorable Timothy J. Drury, the (then) Assistant Erie County District Attorney, who was the chief prosecutor at (all) four innocent youths' trials, is a by-marriage cousin of (current) Erie County District Attorney Flynn. Furthermore, after having led, and gained, the (wrongful) convictions of the (then) 16-year-old three Buffalo 5 youths, Mr. Drury went on to become a city, county, and New York State Supreme Court: Judge.     

In closing.....

The National Registry Of Exonerations [NRE]
The Buffalo 5's Mr. John Walker, and The Buffalo 5's Mr. Darryl Boyd, are two of the United States Of America's, and the U.S. State Of New York's, (most) recent: Wrongful Conviction Exonerees. ​As such, in Fall of 2021, they each became eligible for inclusion in the Newkirk Center For Science & Society's "National Registry Of Exonerations" database. Sadly, their friend, Buffalo 5 Individual Darryn Gibson, who, in 2008, had also been released to lifetime parole conditions, but died, suddenly, in 2009, from a massive heart attack he suffered less than eight months after having gained his (so-called) 'freedom'. Sadly, as well, Buffalo 5 Individual Mr. Floyd Martin is also deceased. ​John Walker, Darryl Boyd, and their friend Tyrone Woodruff, are the three (remaining) survivors of the group of five poor, innocent, Black and African American youths, (widely) known  in the Buffalo-Niagara Metropolitan Region, as: 'The Buffalo 5'. To learn more about them, visit The (Official) Buffalo 5 Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages, at:

Visit The Buffalo 5 On Social Media:
https://www.facebook.com/thebuffalo5
https://www.twitter.com/5_buffalo 
https://www.instagram.com/the_buffalo_5

Move Forward For Justice. Move On Up!
Now men in their 60's, Wrongful Conviction Exonerees John Walker and Darryl Boyd, and their friend Tyrone Woodruff- who recanted, to no avail, several times in the ensuing years after his false 1976 'confession' and false 1977 testimony- are sharing the heartbreaking, but ultimately inspirational, story of their remarkable 45-year journey toward justice. Their objective is to lend their voices in contribution to the dialogue driving criminal justice reform, in the U.S. State Of New York. Indeed, the criminal justice reform Movement is unfolded all across the United States. Finally, their hope is also to promote the importance of faith, family, education, voting, self-determination, character, wisdom, community, and "staying out of harm's way, by not becoming entangled in the criminal justice system, in the first place". Their focus is upon establishing an Initiative that will provide mentoring to inner-city minority teens, and "at-risk" children, across the Upstate Western New York Region.​ This GoFundMe Campaign is very necessary, to offset costs associated with such a monumental humanitarian, and social justice, Effort, as well as to facilitate the sharing, dissemination, distribution, marketing, and the promotion, of "The Buffalo 5 Story", at regional, national, and international levels. The (potentially) life-saving messages and lessons to be gained from the example and the experiences of the boys, and the men, of The Buffalo 5, are invaluable, they are epic, and they are history. They are their stories, but they, too, are our story. They are an important part of our people's, our community's, our region's, and our nation's,  history. What happened to the boys of The Buffalo 5, and what thereby greatly harmed and injured the lives of the men of The Buffalo 5, and what is still hindering their moving forward toward their manifest destinies, must not ever be tolerated to occur ever again, not to another poor person, or Black person, or alone Individual.....or to such persons' families, or to their friendship circles. Friend, your help is (very) urgently needed. You are needed, to assist in the support of the important advocacy work that must be performed now, and moving forward. You are truly (very) greatly needed, and any gift amount that you contribute will be very much appreciated. Donors of $20US, or more, will receive a (short-sleeved) "41-413" t-shirt, at no additional cost. That figure is The Buffalo 5's Erie County Indictment Number, which they should never have been issued, in the first place. However, at any rate, no donation is too small, and n̲o̲ sincere well-wish, or prayer, is insignificant. Thank you, very much, for taking the time to learn of The Buffalo 5's defining moments in this lifetime, thus far. They greatly appreciate your taking an interest in examining their place in human history. Why they are important, is, indeed, important. There remain, however, "next steps" that need be taken, in (continuing) pursuit of completed justice, on their behalf. For The Buffalo 5. Forward!  

Link To "Justice Delayed: The John Walker Story, Pt. I":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmFG0GHvesA

Link To "Moving Forward For Justice: The John Walker Story, Pt. II":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyTW0vk5HVs

Media Inquiries: To request a copy of The Buffalo 5 Electronic Press Kit [EPK], or to forward a request for a (radio, telephone, television, chat, or web-based) interview, please visit the OFFICIAL Buffalo 5 Facebook Page, at the URL listed below this paragraph. Or, you can submit your request via email, Twitter, or Instagram:

[email redacted]
https://www.facebook.com/TheBuffalo5
Twitter.Com/5_Buffalo
Instagram.Com/The_Buffalo_5

To view the premier electronic database listing the United States' Wrongful Conviction Exonerees, since 1989, please visit The National Registry Of Exonerations:​

Profile of Mr. John Walker, of The Buffalo 5 | NATIONAL REGISTRY OF EXONERATIONS  
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=6034

Profile of Mr. Darryl Boyd, of The Buffalo 5 | NATIONAL REGISTRY OF EXONERATIONS  
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=6035

Justice For The Buffalo 5
, and Justice for Mr. William Crawford!

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#SocialInjustice
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#EndMassIncarceration
#USCriminalJusticeReform
#CriminalJusticeReform
#PeaceOnEarth

Photo Credit: The Bishop Darius G. Pridgen, c. 2011, speaking at a public rally convened in (downtown) Buffalo (NY), in support of (The Buffalo 5's) John Walker's and (The Buffalo 5's) Darryl Boyd's fight for freedom, and for justice. Please be aware that, despite their (recent) exonerations, that battle is far from over. THANK YOU.

Organizer

Sherry Sherrill
Organizer
Buffalo, NY

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