Amidst an ongoing backlash that’s seen her resign from the boards of colleges and nonprofit organizations as well as being dropped by her publisher, author Linda Fairstein – the former Manhattan District Attorney’s office prosecutor who led the controversy surrounding the Central Park Five case of the late 80’s – is speaking out against Ava DuVernay, the creator of the television special that’s causing the commotion in the 72-year-old’s personal and professional life.
Titled ‘When They See Us,’ the miniseries (which premiered May 31 on Netflix) recounts the reported mishandling of the case’s evidence (or lack thereof) and the impact the unwarranted guilty verdict had on the Central Park Five’s respective lives. In a new think piece presented in ‘Wall Street Journal,’ Fairstein asserts Duvernay’s depiction of her willfully neglecting key aspects of the investigation that led to the five’s conviction (as portrayed by embattled actress Felicity Huffman) is defamatory.
That’s not all she said. Look inside for more:
Fairstein contends that reporters and filmmakers like DuVernay have only ever focused on the five accused teenagers, four African-American and one Hispanic, and the one victim and have missed “the larger picture of that terrible night: a riot in the dark that resulted in the apprehension of more than 15 teenagers who set upon multiple victims.” She adds that on that night “eight others were attacked, including two men who were beaten so savagely that they required hospitalization for head injuries,” and claims there is compelling evidence that the five were involved in the riot.
In her WSJ piece, Fairstein claims that because the rape and assault convictions against the five—Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise, and Yusef Salaam —were vacated in 2002 after Mathias Reyes, a convicted serial rapist and murderer, confessed to the crime and DNA testing confirmed his presence at the scene, has “led some of these reporters and filmmakers to assume the prosecution had no basis on which to charge the five suspects in 1989.” Fairstein agrees that with Reyes’ confession the convictions against the five were right to be vacated but that didn’t exonerate them of other crimes committed that night during the riot. “The other charges, for crimes against other victims, should not have been vacated. Nothing Mr. Reyes said exonerated these five of those attacks. And there was certainly more than enough evidence to support those convictions of first-degree assault, robbery, riot and other charges,” she writes.
Describing When They See Us as “so full of distortions and falsehoods as to be an outright fabrication,” Fairstein outlines in the WSJ what she claims are the “most egregious falsehoods.” “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. 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,” she writes.
She believes DuVernay portrays her as an “prosecutor and a bigot, the police as incompetent or worse, and the five suspects as innocent of all charges against them” and claims that “none of this is true.” [source]