Linda Fairstein

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Linda Fairstein
Born (1947-05-05) May 5, 1947 (age 69)
Mount Vernon, New York[1]
Occupation Novelist, former Assistant District Attorney of the County of New York
Nationality American
Period 1996–present
Genre Crime

Linda Fairstein (born May 5, 1947) is an American 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 and was promoted to the head of the sex crimes unit in 1976.[2] During her tenure, she prosecuted the controversial and highly publicized cases such as the "Preppy Murder case" against Robert Chambers in 1986, and the 1998 People v. Jovanovic cases. Fairstein, as head of Sex Crimes, oversaw the wrongful prosecution of The "Central Park Jogger" case in 1990 which was prosecuted by ADA's Elizabeth Lederer and Tim Clements. The convictions in the case were later vacated. 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,[3] Kobe Bryant's sexual assault charges,[4] and Scott Peterson's trial.[5] 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.[6]

Personal life

Fairstein was married to lawyer Justin Feldman from 1987 until his death in 2011 at the age of 92. In September 2014 she married her long-time friend Michael Goldberg, another lawyer, at their home in Martha's Vineyard.

Central Park Jogger case[edit]

Fairstein's office supervised the prosecution in 1990 of the Central Park Jogger case, which ended in the conviction of five teenagers.[7] In the settlement, it was claimed that Fairstein, with the assistance of the detectives at the 20th precinct, coerced false confessions from them following thirty straight hours of interrogation and intimidation, of both the youths and their supporting adults.[8] When US 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 US Attorney Andrew Maloney, so she could get the young attorney fired.[8][9]

All five accused teenagers later claimed their confessions were coerced during interrogation through lies and intimidation.[10] Notwithstanding their later claims of innocence, in 1990 the "Central Park Five" were convicted of various assault and sexual battery charges based on the false confessions obtained from the five teens in 1989.[7] Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Kharey Wise had signed written confessions, while Yousef Salaam, made a verbal confession but refused to sign.[8] 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 said in an interview, "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."[8]

All five convictions were vacated in 2002 after convicted rapist Matias Reyes confessed to the crime.[11] [12] [13] 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.[14] In 2003, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana Jr., and Antron McCray sued the city of New York for malicious prosecution, racial discrimination and emotional distress.[15] A proposed settlement in the case was reached on June 19, 2014[7]

In 2009, Ken Burns announced plans to make a film about the case, which he compared to the Scottsboro Boys case.[16] The film, The Central Park Five, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2012 and was released on November 23, 2012.[17]

Jovanovic controversy[edit]

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".[18] This lawsuit stemmed from Fairstein's successful prosecution of Jovanovic in the case People v. Jovanovic that was subsequently overturned on appeal,[19] 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.[20]

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.[8]

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.[21]

Dominique Strauss-Kahn[edit]

Fairstein assisted District Attorney Vance in his decision not to prosecute Dominique Strauss-Kahn for sexual assault in 2012. Fairstein's writing skills came into play in writing up the declination or decision not to charge.[22]


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.[23]

The titles are:

  • Final Jeopardy (novel) (1996)[1]
  • Likely To Die (1997)[1]
  • Cold Hit (1999)[1]
  • The Dead-House (2001)[1] (Nero Award winner)
  • The Bone Vault (2003)[1]
  • The Kills (novel) (2004)[1]
  • Entombed (novel) (2005)[1]
  • Death Dance (2006)[1]
  • Bad Blood (novel) (2007)[24]
  • Killer Heat (2008)[24]
  • Lethal Legacy (2009)[25]
  • Hell Gate (novel) (2010)[26]
  • Silent Mercy (March 2011)[26]
  • Night Watch (Fairstein novel) (July 2012)[26]
  • Death Angel (novel) (2013)[26]
  • Terminal City (novel) (2014)[26]
  • Devil's Bridge (novel) (2015) [27]
  • Killer Look (2016)

She has also written a non-fiction book, Sexual Violence: Our War Against Rape (1993).[1][26]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Lindsay, Elizabeth Blakesley (2007). Great Women Mystery Writers (2nd ed.). Greenwood Press. p. 78. ISBN 0-313-33428-5. 
  2. ^ Bouton, Katherine (1990-02-25). "Linda Fairstein vs. Rape". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  3. ^ Fairstein, Linda (2004-04-30). "Michael Jackson Arraigned". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  4. ^ "American Morning". CNN. 2003-12-19. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  5. ^ "American Morning". CNN. 2003-12-25. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  6. ^ Connic, Jennifer (2006-10-22). "Fairstein Addresses Issues of Domestic Violence". Westport Now. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  7. ^ a b c Weiser, Benjamin (June 19, 2014). "5 Exonerated in Central Park Jogger Case Will Settle Suit for $40 Million". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Gewirtz, Rivka (November 19, 2002). "Ash-Blond Ambition Prosecutor Linda Fairstein May Have Tried Too Hard". Village Voice. 
  9. ^ Timothy John Sullivan (November 1992). Unequal verdicts: the Central Park jogger trials. American Lawyer Books/Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-671-74237-9. 
  10. ^ Schanberg, Sydney. "A Journey Through the Tangled Case of the Central Park Jogger". Village Voice. Retrieved 2009-04-25. 
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ Saulny, Susan. "Convictions and Charges Voided In '89 Central Park Jogger Attack". New York Times. Retrieved 22 April 2017. 
  13. ^ Central Park Jogger Convictions Vacated
  14. ^ "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. 
  15. ^ Vincent, Glyn (July 7, 2009). "Ken Burns Illuminates Jogger Case". Huffington Post. 
  16. ^ Jensen, Elizabeth (2009-09-10). "Ken Burns, the Voice of the Wilderness". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-12-04. 
  17. ^ Linda Fairstein at the Internet Movie Database
  18. ^
  19. ^ Decision of Supreme Court, Appellate Division, December 1999, including summary of all relevant facts
  20. ^ Charges Dismissed in Columbia Sexual Torture Case, The New York Times, November 2, 2001.
  21. ^ Hamblett, Mark. "Court Throws Out Civil Rights Suit Filed After Dismissal of 'Cybersex Torture' Charges". ALM. Retrieved 30 September 2010. 
  22. ^ John Solomon (5 June 2012). DSK: The Scandal That Brought Down Dominique Strauss-Kahn. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-1-250-01264-7. 
  23. ^ Jeffries, Stuart (2004-02-27). "The Rapist Hunter". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  24. ^ a b Janet Husband; Jonathan F. Husband (2009). Sequels: An Annotated Guide to Novels in Series. American Library Association. pp. 186–. ISBN 978-0-8389-0967-6. 
  25. ^ "Lethal Legacy Review". Kirkus Reviews. February 10, 2009. 
  26. ^ a b c d e f "Linda Fairstein". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 20 June 2014. 
  27. ^ "Amazon listing". 

External links[edit]