Former prosecutor Linda Fairstein is continuing to defend her botched investigation of the 1989 Central Park Five jogger case, writing in a new op-ed that When They See Us, which detailed the case, trials and subsequent exoneration, is an “outright fabrication.”
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal published Monday, Fairstein wrote Ava DuVernay’s depiction of the Central Park Five case in the series is “full of distortions and falsehoods.”
Fairstein has been the main focus of the backlash from the four-part series, which highlights the case’s racist investigation, framing five innocent Black boys for the rape of a white woman, Trisha Meili, who was jogging alone in New York City’s Central Park in April 1989.
Fairstein wrote that the mini-series falsely portrays her as a “bigot” and “evil mastermind,” who was “unethically engineering the police investigation.” She also claims the film’s “most egregious falsehoods” were the ways in which the teens were treated while in custody.
“When They See Us, repeatedly portrays the suspects as being held without food, deprived of their parents’ company and advice, and not even allowed to use the bathroom,” she writes. “If that had been true, surely they would have brought those issues up and prevailed in pretrial hearings on the voluntariness of their statements, as well as in their lawsuit against the city. They didn’t, because it never happened.”
After losing their innocence and spending six to 13 years in prison each for the crimes, a serial rapist confessed to the crime, freeing the young men and exonerating them. Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, and Kevin Richardson eventually received a $41 million settlement from the city of New York in 2014.
Fairstein, who maintains that the initial verdicts were correct, insists DuVernay wrongfully portrays the men as totally innocent, arguing there was enough evidence to convict them.
She writes that it was an “outrage” that DuVernay “ignored so much of the truth about the gang of 30 and about the suffering of their victims.”
The backlash from the film has forced Fairstein to shut down her social media accounts and resign from three non-profit boards. She was also recently dropped from her publisher and her Glamour magazine Woman of the Year award from 1993 was rescinded.
DuVernay responded to a tweet about Fairstein’s op-ed on Monday night, writing that her criticisms were “expected and typical.”
The acclaimed director explained in a recent sit-down interview with Oprah Winfrey that her real goal with the series is to change the prison industrial complex, not to blame one person.
“Our real goal is to be able to say, ‘Go America. Let’s do this. Let’s change this.’ You can’t change what you don’t know, so we came together to show you what you may not know,” she explained. “Now that you know, what will you do? How will you change this? That’s our goal.”