Linda Fairstein, Once Cheered, Faces Storm After ‘When They See Us’
She ran that department for 25 years, and of the thousands of investigations she oversaw, including the Robert Chambers “preppy killer” case, which ended with his guilty plea for manslaughter, the Central Park case was perhaps the most high profile.
In 2002, a report by the Manhattan district attorney’s office said that the convictions against the five should be vacated, and that there had been significant problems with the prosecution’s case.
The report said statements by the five defendants “differed from one another on the specific details of virtually every major aspect of the crime — who initiated the attack, who knocked the victim down, who undressed her, who struck her, who held her, who raped her, what weapons were used in the course of the assault, and when in the sequence of events the attack took place.” None of them accurately described where the jogger was attacked.
A dueling report, commissioned by the New York Police Department, found that no misconduct occurred during the investigation and said it was “more likely than not that the defendants participated in an attack upon the jogger.” One of the authors of the report, Stephen L. Hammerman, was the top legal adviser for the police department at the time.
[The Central Park Five discussed “When They See Us” with their onscreen counterparts.]
Daniel R. Alonso, who was a colleague of Ms. Fairstein’s at the district attorney’s office, said that while “it’s a terrible, terrible thing when someone gets wrongfully convicted,” he did not believe the case should overshadow Ms. Fairstein’s accomplishments.
“I think it’s terrible to ‘cancel’ someone’s entire career over one matter,” he said, citing Ms. Fairstein’s history of prosecuting rapists and lobbying for policies that benefit victims of sexual crimes.