There has been a call for an investigation of prosecutors who dropped charges against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, who had been accused of staging a hate crime.
But what about an investigation of the Central Park Five prosecutor over the wrongful conviction of five teens for the 1989 rape and beating of a female jogger?
Unlike the Smollett incident, the Central Park Five case led to wrongful imprisonment.
Linda Fairstein was the top Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor when five Black and Latino teenagers were charged with the attack on a white female jogger. The case became a symbol of the city’s soaring crime in the late 1980s. Donald Trump took out full-page newspaper ads calling for the death penalty.
The teens said their confessions were coerced, and their convictions were overturned in 2002 after convicted murderer and serial rapist Matias Reyes confessed to committing the crime alone. DNA linked him to it.
Fairstein observed the boys’ 1989 interrogation, conducted by another prosecutor and police. She didn’t personally try the case.
Since its collapse, she has denied the teens were coerced and has defended authorities’ conduct in the case, explored in a 2013 documentary by Ken Burns.
The city reached a roughly $41 million settlement with the five the next year, while not admitting any wrongdoing.
There has been renewed outcry regarding Fairstein’s role in the racially divisive case following the release last month of Netflix’s “When They See Us,” a miniseries directed by Ava DuVernay that dramatizes the events surrounding the trial.
Fairstein has been dropped by her publisher as fallout continues. Dutton spokeswoman Amanda Walker confirmed a statement that the publisher’s customer service line has been giving to inquiring callers, saying that it had “terminated its relationship” with the best-selling crime novelist.
Fairstein had already resigned from at least two nonprofit boards as backlash intensified and a #CancelLindaFairstein movement spread on social media.
Last year, the Mystery Writers of America took the rare step of withdrawing a lifetime achievement award after other authors protested, citing Fairstein’s role in the Central Park case.
The conduct of Fairstein, other prosecutors and police involved in the Central Park Five case deserves further investigation.