“When They See Us” has reignited controversy regarding prosecutor-turned-author Linda Fairstein.
The limited series on Netflix dramatizes the story of five teenage boys of color who were wrongfully convicted of brutally raping a jogger in New York in 1990.
There were complaints that the confessions of the Central Park Five, as they came to be known, were coerced, and their convictions were overturned in 2002 after Matias Reyes, a convicted serial rapist, confessed to the rape.
The city settled with men in 2014, and they were awarded $41 million.
Fairstein was a prosecutor on the case and is portrayed in the Netflix series by actress Felicity Huffman.
The former sex crimes prosecutor went on to become a successful mystery writer, and the emotions stirred by the series have led to petitions calling for a boycott of Fairstein’s books as well as a #CancelLindaFairstein movement on social media.
“Linda Fairstein achieved her fame & fortune through her wild imagination & at the expense of five INNOCENT children’s pain,” one of the petitions reads. “Linda Fairstein led a witch hunt against five teenage boys even though the physical evidence didn’t support her theory she raged on with one goal in mind & that was to get a conviction at any expense even the lives of teenage boys.”
The author recently deleted her Twitter account after days of sparring with some Twitter users.
There was controversy even before last week’s release of “When They See Us.”
In November, the Mystery Writers of America, or MWA, rescinded the Grand Master Award it had planned on awarding Fairstein. The award is in recognition of a writer’s lifetime achievement.
“MWA cannot move forward with an award that lacks the support of such a large percentage of our members,” the organization said in a statement at the time.
In July, Fairstein defended the handling of the case in a letter to the editor of the New York Law Journal.
“The confessions were not coerced,” she wrote. “The questioning was respectful, dignified, carried out according to the letter of the law and with sensitivity to the young age of the men.”
“When They See Us” director Ava DuVernay told The Daily Beast that Fairstein tried to “negotiate” her portrayal in the series.
“I don’t know if I’ve told anyone this, but she tried to negotiate conditions for her to speak with me, including approvals over the script and some other things,” DuVernay said. “So you know what my answer was to that, and we didn’t talk.”
CNN has reached out to Fairstein and her publisher for comment.