She Sued To Dominate The Narrative, But Things Didn’t Go As Planned

ava duvernay speaking at a podium
Zain Murdock
June 21, 2024

Linda Fairstein didn’t interrogate the boys accused of the attack on the  Central Park jogger in 1989. But while heading the Manhattan Sex Crimes unit, she oversaw prosecutions at the precinct. She defended the NYPD’s investigation long after their convictions were vacated. So, Fairstein wasn’t a fan of Ava DuVernay’s depiction of her in 2019’s ‘When They See Us.’ She sued for defamation.

She claimed it was a “basket of lies,” making her out to be a “racist, unethical villain.” But according to DuVernay, instead of facing a jury this year, she backed off, demanding a cash payout along with a disclaimer stating her portrayal was completely fabricated. Fairstein won nothing.

Netflix agreed to donate $1 million to the Innocence Project and move the disclaimer from the credits to the beginning. But this last-ditch to cling to power isn’t Fairstein’s first time that she has tried to control the narrative.

As a bestselling crime novelist and the inspiration behind Law and Order: SVU, Fairstein helped shape the cultural narrative around policing. Her storytelling counsel promoted the idea that we need police, despite rape kit backlogs, systemic violence against survivors, and victims of incarceration like the Exonerated Five.

But with DuVernay’s series, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise reclaimed the narrative Fairstein helped build - a narrative she can't control anymore.