when they see us linda fairstein


Central Park Five prosecutor calls Netflix portrayal an ‘outright fabrication’

She says the Netflix series 'defames' her, but people aren't buying it.


Audra Schroeder


Posted on Jun 11, 2019   Updated on May 20, 2021, 10:48 am CDT

Linda Fairstein, the former prosecutor who’s received renewed scrutiny for her role in the Central Park Five convictions, has called When They See Us an “outright fabrication.”

Ava DuVernay’s Netflix limited series reexamines the case and the ways the justice system failed the five teenagers accused and convicted of the 1989 rape of Trisha Meili. Fairstein (played by Felicity Huffman) was head of the Manhattan District Attorney’s sex crimes unit at the time, and she controlled and oversaw many aspects of the investigation. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Fairstein takes issue with the way the series presents the handling of the case, claiming it “defames” her and “attempts to portray me as an overzealous prosecutor and a bigot.”

Fairstein doubles down on her claim that the five exonerated men were guilty of something that night, even though Matias Reyes confessed to the crime in 2002. “Nothing Mr. Reyes said exonerated these five of those attacks,” Fairstein said. “And there was certainly more than enough evidence to support those convictions of first-degree assault, robbery, riot, and other charges.”

In an interview with the Daily Beast, DuVernay said Fairstein wanted to “negotiate” scripts and how she would participate in the series, and so the director didn’t meet with her. After the series release on May 31, calls for a boycott of Fairstein’s books started circulating. She was subsequently dropped by her publisher, Dutton, and resigned from Vassar’s board of trustees, as well as several nonprofits.

On Twitter, DuVernay wrote, “Expected and typical. Onward…” in response to Franklin Leonard’s tweet about Fairstein’s attempt at damage control. The Journal was also criticized for giving Fairstein the space to revise her history.

At a Netflix event on Monday, DuVernay told Oprah that this renewed accountability is important but that Fairstein is just one part of a bigger problem.

“She is part of a system that’s not broken, it was built to be this way,” DuVernay said. “It was built to oppress, it was built to control, it was built to shape our culture in a specific way that kept some people here and some people here.”


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H/T the Daily Beast

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*First Published: Jun 11, 2019, 1:36 pm CDT