May 5, 1947 |
Mt. Vernon, New York
|Occupation||Novelist, former Assistant District Attorney of the County of New York|
Linda Fairstein (born May 5, 1947, Mt. Vernon, New York) is an American feminist author and former prosecutor focusing on crimes of violence against women and children. She served as head of the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney's office from 1976 until 2002 and is the author of a series of novels featuring Manhattan prosecutor Alexandra Cooper.
Fairstein graduated with honors from Vassar College (1969) and the University of Virginia School of Law (1972). She joined the Manhattan District Attorney's office in 1972 as an Assistant District Attorney. She was promoted to the head of the sex crimes unit in 1976. During her tenure, she prosecuted several controversial and highly publicized cases, including the "Preppy Murder case" against Robert Chambers in 1986 and the "Central Park Jogger case" in 1990 (see below), and the People v. Jovanovic case in 1999 (see below). Fairstein left the District Attorney's office in 2002, and has continued to consult, write, lecture and serve as a sex crimes expert for a wide variety of print and television media outlets, including CNN, MSNBC and Larry King, among others. Fairstein has consulted for a number of media outlets during a number of high profile prosecutions including Michael Jackson's molestation charges in 2004, Kobe Bryant's sexual assault charges, and Scott Peterson's trial. She was the founder of the Domestic Violence Committee of the New York Women's Agenda. She is a frequent speaker on issues surrounding domestic abuse.
Wrongful conviction and the Central Park Jogger case
Fairstein's office supervised the prosecution in 1990 of the Central Park Jogger case, which ended in the wrongful conviction of five teenagers. It is now clear that Fairstein, with the assistance of the detectives at the 20th precinct, coerced false confessions from them following thirty straight hours of interrogating and intimidating them. The convictions in the case relied heavily on false confessions obtained from the five teens in 1989. Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Kharey Wise signed written confessions, while the fifth suspect, Yousef Salaam, made a verbal confession. Fairstein's behavior seemed so outrageous that in the 1993 appeals decision on Salaam's case then appellate court judge Vito Titone specifically named her in his dissenting opinion and blasted the entire interrogation process. He recently told Newsday, "I was concerned about a criminal justice system that would tolerate the conduct of the prosecutor, Linda Fairstein, who deliberately engineered the 15-year-old's confession. . . . Fairstein wanted to make a name. She didn't care. She wasn't a human."
According to both Sharonne Salaam and Timothy Sullivan's book on the case, Unequal Verdicts, when U.S. attorney David Nocenti, a "Big Brother" mentor to Yusef Salaam, one of the defendants, appeared at the precinct while the defendant was being grilled, Fairstein verbally abused him, demanded he leave immediately, then called her husband to demand the home number of Nocenti's then boss, Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Andrew Maloney, so she could get the young attorney fired.
All five accused teenagers later claimed their confessions were coerced during interrogation through lies and intimidation. Notwithstanding their claims of innocence, in 1990 the "Central Park Five" were convicted of various assault and sexual battery charges based on the confession evidence. All five convictions were vacated in 2002 after convicted rapist Matias Reyes confessed to the crime. DNA testing of semen found on the victim confirmed that Reyes was the sole contributor of DNA found on the victim, to a certainty of 6 billion to 1. In 2003, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana Jr., and Antron McCray sued the city of New York for malicious prosecution, racial discrimination and emotional distress. The suit is yet to be settled. In 2009, Ken Burns announced plans to make a film about the case, which he compares to the Scottsboro Boys case. He refers to the wrongly convicted as the "Central Park Five". The film, The Central Park Five, was released on November 23, 2012.
Fairstein was sued by Oliver Jovanovic. The lawsuit alleged that Fairstein engaged in "false arrest, malicious prosecution, malicious abuse of process and denial of his right to a fair trial". This lawsuit stemmed from Fairstein's successful prosecution of Jovanovic in the case People v. Jovanovic that was subsequently overturned on appeal, and then dismissed with prejudice by a new trial judge. The dismissal was requested "in the interest of justice" by the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau.
There was no physical evidence linking Jovanovic to the crime, and, in fact, while his accuser claimed she had been brutally attacked and left bleeding, there were only a few fading bruises later found. "If she [Fairstein] couldn't tell this was a false report, well, I am just shocked," says former New York City sex crimes detective John Baeza, who worked in defense of Jovanovic after leaving the force.
The $10 million lawsuit against Fairstein and two co-defendants, former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Gail Heatherly, who now teaches at the Columbia Law School, and New York City Police Detective Milton Bonilla, was dismissed on summary judgment in September 2010. As of October 2010, it is unclear whether Jovanovic will appeal the grant of summary judgment.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn and allegations of sexual assault
Fairstein assisted District Attorney Vance in his decision not to prosecute Strauss-Kahn in 2012. Fairstein's writing skills came into play in writing up the declination or decision not to charge.
Fairstein is the internationally best-selling author of a series of crime novels featuring Manhattan prosecutor Alexandra Cooper. The novels draw on Fairstein's legal expertise.
The titles are:
- Final Jeopardy (1996)
- Likely To Die (1997)
- Cold Hit (1999)
- The Deadhouse (2001) (Nero Award winner)
- The Bone Vault (2003)
- The Kills (2004)
- Entombed (2005)
- Death Dance (2006)
- Bad Blood (2007)
- Killer Heat (2008)
- Lethal Legacy (2009)
- Hell Gate (2010)
- Silent Mercy (March 2011)
- Night Watch (July 2012)
- Death Angel (2013)
She has also written a non-fiction book, Sexual Violence: Our War Against Rape (1993).
- page 78, Great Women Mystery Writers, 2nd Ed. by Elizabeth Blakesley Lindsay, 2007, publ. Greenwood Press, ISBN 0-313-33428-5.
- Bouton, Katherine (1990-02-25). "Linda Fairstein vs. Rape". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
- Fairstein, Linda (2004-04-30). "Michael Jackson Arraigned". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
- "American Morning". CNN. 2003-12-19. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
- "American Morning". CNN. 2003-12-25. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
- Connic, Jennifer (2006-10-22). "Fairstein Addresses Issues of Domestic Violence". Westport Now. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
- Schanberg, Sydney (November 26, 2002). "A Journey Through the Tangled Case of the Central Park Jogger". Village Voice. http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0247,schanberg,39999,1.html. Retrieved on 2009-04-25.
- Saulny, Susan (2002-12-20). "Convictions and Charges Voided In '89 Central Park Jogger Attack". New York Times. "Thirteen years after an investment banker jogging in Central Park was savagely beaten, raped and left for dead, a Manhattan judge threw out the convictions yesterday of the five young men who had confessed to attacking the woman on a night of violence that stunned the city and the nation."
- Central Park Jogger Convictions Vacated Law.com.
- "Affirmation in Response to Motion to Vacate Judgment of Conviction: The People of the State of New York -against- Kharey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Raymond Santana, Defendants" (PDF). Robert M. Morgenthau, District Attorney, New York County. 2002-12-05. Retrieved 2007-06-22.
- Vincent, Glyn (July 7, 2009). "Ken Burns Illuminates Jogger Case". Huffington Post.
- The Central Park 5 Want to Settle Lawsuit 2009-10-14.
- Ken Burns, the Voice of the Wilderness Elizabeth Jensen, 2009-09-10.
- Q &A: Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, speaking at Georgia State on March 25 Jamie Gumbrecht, 2010-03-12.
- Charges Dismissed in Columbia Sexual Torture Case, The New York Times, November 2, 2001.
- Hamblett, Mark. "Court Throws Out Civil Rights Suit Filed After Dismissal of 'Cybersex Torture' Charges". Law.com. ALM. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
- DSK: the scandal that brought down Dominique Strauss-Kahn, John Solomon, 2012.
- Jeffries, Stuart (2004-02-27). "The Rapist Hunter". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2008-01-23.