Mystery Writer's Previous Day Job Costs Her

Group yanks prestigious award from Linda Fairstein over role in Central Park jogger case
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 30, 2018 12:06 PM CST
Updated Dec 2, 2018 8:41 AM CST
Mystery Writer's Previous Day Job Costs Her
In this 1988 file photo, prosecutor Linda Fairstein, left, is shown during a news conference in New York.   (AP Photo/Charles Wenzelberg, File)

(Newser) – "I'm pinching myself," Linda Fairstein wrote on Twitter on Tuesday morning. And for good reason: The Mystery Writers of America had just bestowed on her its prestigious Grand Master honor. Just two days later, however, Fairstein was lamenting a different move by the MWA. In a first, the group rescinded the award because of an outcry from fellow writers. But it wasn't Fairstein's books that upset them; it was her big role in the wrongful conviction of five teenagers in New York City's infamous Central Park jogger rape case of 1989. The details:

  • Taking it back: "After profound reflection, the Board has decided that MWA cannot move forward with an award that lacks the support of such a large percentage of our members," the group said in a statement. "Therefore, the Board of Directors has decided to withdraw the Linda Fairstein Grand Master award."
  • Why: Before she turned to fiction, Fairstein led the sex-crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. While she didn't prosecute the Central Park case, she observed the interrogations of the five teens eventually convicted, reports the Guardian. The teens say their confessions were coerced, and the convictions were overturned in 2002 when serial rapist Matias Reyes confessed. DNA evidence backed him up.

  • Initial backlash: One of the authors leading the charge against Fairstein was Attica Locke, who pleaded with the MWA to reconsider the honor. "She is almost singlehandedly responsible for the wrongful incarceration of the Central Park Five," wrote Locke of Fairstein. (Locke is working with Ava DuVernay on a Netflix series about the case, per Deadline Hollywood.)
  • Her response: Fairstein disputed the "singlehandedly" part, but she also reiterated that she still believes the five teens weren't as innocent as people think. "Talk to me about the other 6 men viciously attacked in the Park that night, which these and others admit doing," she wrote. "You don't care about them? Good night."
  • Consistent: The Washington Post notes that Fairstein has defended the prosecution for years, and still does to this day. It takes note of a 2002 interview with the New Yorker in which she said: "I think Reyes ran with that pack of kids. He stayed longer when the others moved on. He completed the assault. I don't think there is a question in the minds of anyone present during the interrogation process that these five men were participants, not only in the other attacks that night but in the attack on the jogger."
  • The books: Fairstein is known best for her best-selling series of novels featuring prosecutor Alex Cooper, per USA Today.
  • The jogger: The victim, Trisha Meili, has since come forward to talk about her ordeal and her recovery. Shape Magazine has a profile. Meili wrote a book of her own.
  • Trump's voice: Most of the coverage on the author controversy notes that Donald Trump famously took out full-page newspaper ads after the teens were arrested. "Bring Back the Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!" they read.
(The convicted teens agreed to a $40 million settlement with the city.)

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