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Prosecutor-Turned-Novelist Scorned for Miscarriage of Justice

Former prosecutor Linda Fairstein is facing a barrage of criticism for the way she handled her most infamous case. This resulted in several African American young men being wrongfully convicted for rape and assault. Those young men became known as the “Central Park Five.”

Their story was recently adapted by director Ava DuVernay into a dramatic miniseries for Netflix, entitled When They See Us. The popularity of the miniseries has amplified the outcry and scrutiny over Fairstein’s alleged prosecutorial conduct. As a result, Dutton Books, the publisher of her popular novels about a fictional sex crimes prosecutor, has announced it has terminated their business relationship.

Convicted in 1989, exonerated in 2002, and awarded a $41 million settlement from the city of New York in 2003. The Central Park Five remain in the collective memory of American popular culture, especially among whistleblowers highlighting racial bias in the criminal justice system.

But When They See Us reignited furor over the case. This was in part because actor Felicity Huffman portrayed Fairstein as a villain whose racial bias fueled her campaign to coerce admissions of guilt from the defendant. At the same time, she simultaneously hid exculpatory evidence, all under the pretense of pursuing justice for sexual assault victims.

As a result, the hashtag #CancelLindaFairstein began trending on social media. Glamour magazine published an editorial recanting her 1993 Woman of the Year honor, saying it was awarded “before the full injustices in this case were brought to light.”

Fairstein’s success as an author was even referenced in the miniseries. In the final episode, Nancy Ryan, meets with Fairstein. She pulls out several of Fairstein’s books, lays them in front of her, and says: “While you were writing crime novels, Kevin, Antron, Yusef, Raymond and Korey were serving time for crimes they didn’t commit.”

Potential Preaching Angles: To unjustly pursue justice is to pursue injustice, because God cares not only about just outcomes, but just processes. If we do evil in the name of doing good, our evil deeds have the potential to overshadow the good we do in the process. Steadfast pursuit of truth will eventually come to yield the fruit of justice.

Elizabeth A. Harris and Julia Jacobs, “Linda Fairstein, Once Cheered, Faces Storm After ‘When They See Us’” New York Times (6-6-19); Colin Dwyer, “Linda Fairstein, Former 'Central Park 5' Prosecutor, Dropped By Her Publisher,” NPR (6-7-19)

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