Linda Fairstein, the lead prosecutor in the Central Park Five case, is responding to the backlash stewed from her depiction in the Netflix series When They See Us, claiming the whole thing is “a basket of lies.”
“She’s behind it. Her lies are behind it all,” she said of director Ava DuVernay during an interview with The Daily Beast. Earlier this week DuVernay claimed on Twitter that Fairstein tried to negotiate how she’d be depicted in the series.
When They See Us depicts the story of five Black and Brown boys who were falsely accused and convicted of brutally raping Trisha Meili in New York City’s Central Park in 1989. At the time, Fairstein was the head of the Manhattan Sex Crimes Unit and went ahead and prosecuted the five men from Harlem, despite a complete lack of physical evidence. The boys’ incarceration robbed them of their childhood while Fairstein went on to become a best-selling author.
In 2002, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, and Kevin Richardson were exonerated and eventually received a $41 million settlement from the city of New York in 2014.
Ever since the initial verdicts, Linda Fairstein has stood by her prosecution of the Central Park Five. “Two juries heard that the DNA in and on the jogger’s body was not from any of the 5—and still they convicted on the theory that the missing attacker, who had run with the crowd of 32 young men who rioted in the park, had not yet been caught,” Fairstein wrote in a New York Law Journal article from last year. She argues prosecutors and investigators can’t be blamed for their theory because no national DNA database existed at the time.
On Tuesday, Fairstein resigned from the boards of the nonprofit Safe Horizon, Vassar College, God’s Love We Deliver and the Joyful Heart Foundation. A social media campaign called #CancelLindaFairstein was launched earlier this week to bring awareness to Fairstein’s role in the wrongful conviction.