In my last post I started my thoughts on Ms Fairstein and the Central Park 5 going through the unsuccessful appeals of the 5 in the early 1990's. This post concludes my thoughts and provides links to reading material. Here is a link to my first post -
Over 12 years after the appeals the case unraveled when the convicted rapist and murderer, Reyes, confessed to the assault and rape and his DNA was found in semen samples on the victim. There was no such DNA from the 5.
I agree that the police and prosecutors, including Fairstein, had tunnel vision concerning the 5 that had them totally focused on the 5 such that they contorted the forensic evidence at the time of the assault and rape to conclude there was a further unidentified assailant such that it was really a Central Park 6. Rather than consider an individual attacker not a member of the 5 they came up with the implausible 6th attacker.
The case reminded me of a wrongful conviction in Saskatchewan where a false confession was obtained from a teenager, David Milgaard, in the rape and murder of a nurse, Gail Miller. He spent over two decades in jail before the actual killer was identified and ultimately convicted through his DNA.
In 2002 the DA consented to a defence application to vacate the convictions because of the convincing new evidence from Reyes and a full review of the case.
Ms. Fairstein has never admitted the convictions of the 5 were wrong.
She is not alone. The police, especially through the Armstrong report, have not accepted Reyes acted alone in assaulting and raping the jogger. However, their conclusions are based on such conjecture as considering him unreliable as a convicted felon. They speculate on his motives and believe he was the 6th man. Their conclusions lack evidence to support them. They dive into the incredible by suggesting there could have been an attack by the 5 and then a subsequent attack by Reyes. Had Reyes been identified at the same time as the 5 I do not believe the 5 would ever have been charged. The evidence against Reyes is solid.
Overall Ms. Locke overstates Ms. Fairstein’s role and Ms. Fairstein under emphasizes her role.
Ms. Fairstein’s greatest sin is her inability to admit she did anything wrong. She would have been well advised to have accepted there was wrongful conduct in the prosecution of the 5. Her superior the District Attorney, Robert Morgenthau, accepted there were wrongful convictions and unreliable confessions as his office consented to the convictions being vacated. She has a righteousness in real life as pronounced as in her fictional Alexandra Cooper. For Fairstein neither police nor prosecutors can do wrong.
Should the consequences have been as great as they have been for Ms. Fairstein?
I question judging writers for Awards by their personal lives. I favour making awards by assessing the writing not analyzing personal lives.
Ms. Fairstein has been harshly condemned. I agree she was wrong in this case. On how many cases was she right? She is now being condemned for how she approached prosecutions more generally.
I have seen no comparisons to Anne Perry who has had an extremely successful career writing crime fiction set in England. I greatly enjoyed the early William Monk novels.
A few years ago it was disclosed she had been convicted of participating in the murder of a friend’s mother in New Zealand in 1954 when she was 15 and served 5 years in jail. She continues to be published and I have never seen a public campaign against her. I do see a significant difference from Ms. Fairstein in that Ms. Perry was punished and has taken responsibility for her actions. On Ms. Perry accepting responsibility it was less certain for a time as evident in an interview with the New York Times. However, in a 2017 article from the New Zealand Herald she is direct in taking responsibility. She is quoted as saying:
[She] “made a profoundly wrong decision” and that “I was guilty and it [jail] was the right place for me to be.”
Lawyers will err in prosecuting and defending cases. I have greater concern with Ms. Fairstein’s lack of regret over the wrongful convictions and her efforts to minimize her actions in the obtaining of confessions. When she was a prosecutor she would have emphasized no regret and minimization as aggravating factors. Had she accepted her share of responsibility as Mr. Morgenthau accepted responsibility as set out above I would say she should have been a Grand Master, still have a publisher and remain on the boards from which she resigned. Confession and remorse would have been good for both her soul and her reputation.
Appeal decision from 1993 - https://law.justia.com/cases/new-york/court-of-appeals/1993/83-n-y-2d-51-0.html
2002 District Attorney’s report consenting to vacating convictions -
Decision on application to vacate in 2002 -
Armstrong Report -
New York Times article of November 29, 2018 containing Attica Locke’s tweet:
Rap Sheet post from November 29, 2018 -
2019 reprint of Ms Fairstein’s 2018 letter -
2019 article in New York Law Journal -
Rap Sheet post of June 15, 2019 (there are numerous links in the post to other articles that I have read) -
New York Times Interview with Anne Perry in 1995 -
New Zealand Herald article on Anne Perry from 2017-