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Surviving 'Buffalo Five' members await court date, with hopes of exoneration from 1976 murder case

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

More than four decades later, surviving members of the so-called Buffalo Five maintain their innocence in a decades-old murder case. Now, they'll have a day in court as they attempt to clear their names.

In 1976, William Crawford, a White man, was murdered on Fillmore Avenue. Five Black teens were arrested and charged with the crime. Four were convicted and three collectively served more than 84 years in prison.

Three of the Buffalo Five are still alive. Two of them appeared in downtown Buffalo with supporters at a Friday afternoon rally on the sidewalk outside 25 Delaware Avenue, seven floors beneath the Erie County District Attorney's Office. Activists are urging the current DA, John Flynn, to exonerate all the defendants.

One of the Buffalo Five attending the rally was Darryl Boyd.

"It's taken almost 45 years for us to get into this position where we are today," he said. "We are being granted a hearing, 45 years later. And on the 2nd, hopefully, it'll be proven that we were wrongly convicted."

December 2 is when a judge will hear a motion to vacate Erie County Indictment Number 41-413. The motion was filed on behalf of the Buffalo Five by prominent attorney Paul Cambria, who was not present at the rally.

"We've got the truth on our side. We always deal with the truth," said John Walker, Jr., one of the surviving Buffalo Five.

Their advocates say the Buffalo Five were falsely accused, had alibis that could be verified by witnesses, and had key evidence withheld during the course of the investigation and trial. Walker admits when arrested he and his peers could be seen smiling in photos, but explained it was because they were innocent and confident they'd be found so.

"There was no fear in the beginning when we got arrested. Actually, you can accuse us of taking it too lightly, because we were laughing," he said. "Because we thought we didn't have nothing to do with the murder."

Walker, in addition to serving his prison time, has also completed his parole period. Boyd, however, remains on parole.

"It's very frustrating. But I also know at this present time, it is reality," Boyd said. "To rebel against that or the supervision of them wouldn't be healthy."

The third surviving member of the Buffalo Five, Tyrone Woodruff, was not present. Floyd Martin and Darren Gibson have since passed away.

Walker pointed out that his family has a history of relatives dying in their 60s. He's now 61 and he fears the December court date will be his last chance to clear his name.

"I have a 14-year-old son over there," he said, pointing to him from several feet away. "I don't want to leave a legacy that his father is a murderer, especially for something I had nothing to do with."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.