When They See Us: What happened to Linda Fairstein after the Central Park Five case?

4 June 2019, 13:54 | Updated: 4 June 2019, 14:33

By Sam Prance

Linda Fairstein was responsible for wrongfully prosecuting the Central Park Five.

The real Linda Fairstein (Felicity Huffman) from When They See Us has never been punished for the "Central Park Five" case.

Where are the Central Park Five now? The real story behind When They See Us on Netflix

Netflix released When They See Us on May 31 to critical acclaim. The four part series tells the story of Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Kevin Richardson. In 1989, these men of colour were all wrongfully convicted of raping and assaulting Trisha Meili, a white, female jogger in Central Park, New York, despite their being no actual evidence to imply that they did. Their names were cleared in 2002 after serial killer, Matias Reyes, was found guilty of the crime.

When They See Us demonstrates how Linda Fairstein, past head of the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney's office, was behind the wrongful prosecution of Wise, Santana, McCray, Salaam and Richardson. It shows her racism and how she and the NYPD used the boys as political scapegoats to quickly solve a case. It also illustrates how she and the police coerced the "Central Park Five" into confessing to the crimes despite their lack of involvement in them.

Where is Linda Fairstein now?

When They See Us: What happened to Linda Fairstein after the Central Park Five case?
When They See Us: What happened to Linda Fairstein after the Central Park Five case? Picture: Netflix // Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

When They See Us ends with Wise, Santana, McCray, Salaam and Richardson being exonerated. However, before this takes place, there's a scene in which lawyer Nancy Ryan confronts Fairstein about Reyes' confession and the fact that no one but his DNA was found on Meili's body. Fairstein dismisses this as proof that the "Central Park Five" were not involved, saying that Reyes must have been a sixth participant in the crime.

All of this matches up with the real Linda Fairstein's actual quotes about Reyes and the case. Speaking to The New Yorker in 2002, Fairstein said: "[Reyes] 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.”

Shortly after the original case ended in 1989, Fairstein left prosecution and became a best-selling author of crime novels, all the while, the boys she imprisoned were behind bars for crimes they never committed. Fairstein has written 24 books and won multiple, prestigious awards for them. In spite of her actions, she hasn't paid any real consequences for what she's done.

However, with the renewed attention, which the "Central Park Five" case is receiving thanks to When They See Us, Fairstein is now coming under extra scrutiny. People have created a petition for retailers and publishers to boycott her books (40,000 people have signed it). There is even a petition to prosecute her for her responsibility in imprisoning five innocent men.

As it stands Fairstein is yet to comment on these petitions or When They See Us. However, the series' director Ava DuVernay told the Daily Beast that "Linda Fairstein actually tried to negotiate" with her. "I don’t know if I’ve told anyone this, but she tried to negotiate conditions for her to speak with me, including approvals over the script and some other things."

DuVernay then added: "So you know what my answer was to that, and we didn’t talk."

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