Linda Fairstein, the woman who oversaw prosecutors interrogations in the notorious Central Park Five case, published an op-ed Monday calling the Netflix series about the case an “outright fabrication.” Fairstein, who is now a bestselling crime novelist, was dropped by her publisher last week amid increasing fallout over her role in the 1989 convictions.
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Fairstein says Ava DuVernay’s dramatization of the Central Park Five case is “full of distortions and falsehoods.” Fairstein has denied the teens were coerced into confessing, and stands by her belief they should not have been completely exonerated.
The Netflix drama “When They See Us” tells the story of five black and Latino teenagers who were wrongly convicted of the 1989 rape of a New York City jogger during a riot in Central Park. They spent six to 13 years in prison, until DNA evidence and a confession exonerated them in 2002.
Fairstein says the mini-series falsely portrays her as a “bigot” and “evil mastermind,” who was “unethically engineering the police investigation.” She claims the film’s “most egregious falsehoods” are that the teens were being held without access to food, their parents and the bathroom.
The men allege police did coerce them. Last month, they recounted their experiences on “CBS Sunday Morning”.
“Soon as we get in, they separate us and they start working on us,” said Yusef Salaam. “And I’m hearing Korey [Wise] being physically beaten in the next room. And I’m immediately beyond afraid.”
Fairstein insists DuVernay wrongfully portrays the men as totally innocent, arguing there was enough evidence to convict them of first-degree assault, robbery, riot and other charges stemming from the attacks. She says blood stains and dirt were found on some of their clothing, and that “more than a dozen” kids at the park riot named some of or all of them in statements.
DuVernay spoke about the series last month on “CBS This Morning”.
“Can we interrogate what’s happened in the past to safeguard ourselves from it happening in the future?” she said at the time. “That’s why I’m such a student of history. I like to embed historical context in my work. We can only, kind of, better the situation if we realize the details of what happened.”
In her op-ed, Fairstein said “Ms. DuVernay does not define me, and her film does not speak the truth.”
DuVernay responded to a tweet about Fairstein’s op-ed last night, writing her criticisms were “expected and typical.”
This story was originally published by CBS News on June 11, 2019 at 7:18 a.m. ET.