After being incarcerated since 2016 for a crime he did not commit, Pedro Hernandez will soon be released.
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights — a non-profit justice organization led by the late senator's daughter, Kerry Kennedy — posted Hernandez's bail after a judge reduced it from $250,000 to $105,000, according to New York's PIX11.
Thanks to the organization's generous donation, Hernandez will meet his deadline to accept his college scholarship.
This outcome is a powerful example of what raising awareness to injustice can do. If Hernandez's situation had not received national attention, there's no telling how long he would have had to sit behind bars serving time for something he did not do.
This is certainly a victory for social justice advocates everywhere.
An 18-year-old from the Bronx is sitting behind bars at Rikers Island with his future on the line for a crime he did not commit.
According to Vibe, Pedro Hernandez was arrested in connection with a 2015 shooting in which another teenager was shot in the leg. Despite eight eyewitnesses and the victim, himself, telling police that Hernandez was not the shooter, he is still locked up.
Recorded statements reveal that the witnesses were threatened with physical violence by certain officers if they didn’t implicate Hernandez in the crime, Vibe reports.
One of those officers is David Terrell, who is reportedly known locally for engaging in misconduct. He has since been suspended from active duty and stripped of his gun and badge as a result of an unrelated domestic dispute, according to prominent activist and New York Daily News contributor Shaun King.
After receiving his GED while serving time, Hernandez was planning to head to college in the fall with a full scholarship from the Posse Foundation. Alas, his future now rests in the hands of the criminal justice system, which is known to show very little mercy to people of color.
Last week, Hernandez was offered a plea deal that would place him on probation for five years if he pleads guilty. However, he declined the offer as he fully maintains his innocence.
"I’m not pleading guilty to something I did not do," he said, according to NBC New York. “I’m willing to stay and fight this because I’m innocent.”
The teen has only until Sept. 1 to raise $250,000 to post bail and accept his scholarship. So far, his family has raised more than $60,000 at the time of this writing on the YouCaring crowdfunding site. Sadly, scheduling issues on behalf of his lawyer and the judge stand in the way of his case being heard until after Labor Day.
“Everybody needs to stand together and say that our kids don’t deserve a plea deal,” said Jessica Perez, Hernandez’s mother. “They deserve a future.”
Hernandez's circumstances are infuriating, but many minority men in this country face the same fate or worse, which is exactly why the social justice work of King and others like him are so necessary.
Needless to say, Hernandez deserves to be exonerated so that he can move on with his future.
Banner/Thumbnail Credit: Flickr, poirpom