Thursday, November 29, 2018


I'm pleased to see that this is controversial:
A New York organization that promotes mystery and detective fiction is under fire for honoring a best-selling crime novelist who, before she turned to writing, oversaw the prosecution of the Central Park Five — teenage boys wrongly convicted of a 1989 rape that shocked and divided New Yorkers.

The furor began on Tuesday when Mystery Writers of America, creator of the annual Edgar Awards, announced that Linda Fairstein would be one of two writers honored as Grand Masters for literary achievement at the organization’s awards banquet next spring in New York. Ms. Fairstein is the author of 20 novels about a fictional Manhattan prosecutor, Alexandra Cooper, modeled on her own real-life past work as the chief of the sex-crimes unit of the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

... Twelve years after the convictions, DNA evidence pointed to a serial rapist, Matias Reyes, who confessed to the attack while serving a life sentence for other crimes. The Manhattan district attorney agreed to vacate the Central Park Five convictions in 2002.
Fairstein was criticized by Attica Locke, who is also an Edgar winner and who is working with Ava DuVernay on a documentary about the Central Park Five case. Fairstein defended her handling of the case, as she has ever since the original convictions were overturned. She's argued that the Five participated in the rape, despite the lack of any DNA evidence linking them to the victim, and despite the strong evidence pointing to Reyes, who is known to be responsible for similar rapes. She insists that the Five (all minors at the time) were never questioned coercively, despite clear evidence that they were denied access to parents and other adults while being questioned. She's unrepentant.

I'm sure she'll get to keep the award -- her books still sell and there's rarely a penalty in our culture for being wrong in a conservative way. This is the domestic equivalent of advocating a war that turns out to be disastrous. If you do that, you'll never pay a price. You'll never lose pundit gigs. So you helped jail a bunch of teenagers for terms that eventually ranged from seven to thirteen years for a crime they didn't commit. So you helped make them the most hated people in New York. So your work helped encourage a future president to call for their execution. Take a mulligan -- everybody makes mistakes, right? And, of course, a significant slice of white New York undoubtedly still believes the Five were guilty, just like Fairstein.


UPDATE: I was wrong -- the award was withdrawn.

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