Len Levitt, in an Op-ed piece in amNew York, 6/18/19, “The campaign to demonize Linda Fairstein,” as it relates to her behavior to convict the Central Park Five, writes that we “seem to be going through a period of racial reckoning. But do Fairstein’s pursuers actually think they can help undo, or repay, 300 years of past injuries to blacks by demonizing her?” (This is about the last 30 years, and this is about this one case!)
That’s reaching! Linda Fairstein was not alone in demonizing the young men wrongly convicted of a terrible crime they did not commit. The tabloids also demonized the young men. The Donald demonized the young men, even took out a full page ad in the New York Times, a paper he now hates, calling for the death of the young men.
The bottom line is that in the annals of criminal jurisprudence, there are numerous cases where prosecutors did not pursue justice, but were intent on securing convictions, by any means necessary, which has included knowingly using false testimony. (There’s a famous United States Supreme Court case on the knowing use of false evidence that overturned a bloody murder conviction because during his summation the prosecutor repeatedly mentioned “bloody” garments found at the crime scene, when all along the prosecutor knew that it was paint on the garments, not blood.) And then there is the sophistical rationalization in trying, railroading and convicting people when there is less than sufficient evidence to secure their convictions, in fact, that they might even be innocent, that they are “guilty of something” if not this crime. This even stretches the legal concept of “vicarious liability.”
So Fairstein’s publisher dropped her. (I confess that I’ve read and enjoyed about ten of her books.) That’s a drop in the bucket to what the innocent young men went through. So Fairstein had to resign from a few Boards. That will not dramatically alter her life in the way that a wrongful conviction altered the lives of the innocent young men.
Anyone familiar with the criminal legal system knows that many a prosecutor, not just Fairstein, used it as a launching pad to further their careers in law and in the literary world.
“When They See Us” is simply one case, one glaring example that exposes how the criminal legal system typically manufactures a case. Prosecutors have enjoyed absolute immunity from the behavior demonstrated by Fairstein, behavior that should be criminal. Is this a reckoning for Fairstein? Yes. But in no way is it a “racial reckoning.” It’s a reckoning about justice, which we have come to equate with guilty verdicts, which isn’t justice at all. It’s a reckoning about fairness, which Fairstein wasn’t in the Central Park Five Case.