Open main menu

Linda Fairstein (born May 5, 1947) is an American author and former prosecutor focusing on crimes of violence against women and children. She was the 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 the Manhattan prosecutor Alexandra Cooper.[2]

Linda Fairstein
Born (1947-05-05) May 5, 1947 (age 71)
Mount Vernon, New York[1]
OccupationNovelist, former Assistant District Attorney of the County of New York



Fairstein graduated with honors from Vassar College in 1969 with a degree in English literature. She graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1972 where she was one of only a dozen women in her class.[2] Fairstein 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.[3] 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.[3][4] Fairstein, as head of Sex Crimes, oversaw the wrongful prosecution of five juvenile defendants known as the "Central Park Five" in The "Central Park Jogger" case in 1990. The case was prosecuted by ADAs Elizabeth Lederer and Arthur Clements. The convictions in the case were later vacated.[5][6] 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,[7] Kobe Bryant's sexual assault charges,[8] and Scott Peterson's trial.[9] She was also involved in the Harvey Weinstein case,helping to silence one of the cases against him [10] 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.[11]

Central Park Jogger caseEdit

Fairstein's office supervised the prosecution in 1990 of the Central Park Jogger case, which ended in the conviction of five teenagers [12] who were later exonerated of any part in the crime. In a settlement lawsuit it was claimed that Fairstein, with the assistance of the detectives at the 20th precinct, coerced false confessions from the five arrested teenagers following thirty straight hours of interrogation and intimidation, of both the youths and their supporting adults.[13] 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.[13][14]

All five accused teenagers later claimed their confessions were coerced during interrogation through lies and intimidation.[15] 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.[12] Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Kharey Wise had signed written confessions, while Yousef Salaam, made a verbal confession but refused to sign.[13] 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 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."[13]

All five convictions were vacated in 2002 after convicted rapist Matias Reyes confessed to the crime.[16][17][18] 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.[19] In 2003, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana Jr., and Antron McCray sued the city of New York for malicious prosecution, racial discrimination and emotional distress.[20] A proposed settlement in the case was reached on June 19, 2014[12]

In 2009, Ken Burns announced plans to make a film about the case, which he compared to the Scottsboro Boys case.[21] The film, The Central Park Five, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2012 and was released on November 23, 2012.[22]

In 2018, the Mystery Writers of America announced that it would honor Fairstein with one of its "Grand Master" awards for literary achievement. But two days after controversy erupted in connection with her role in the case, the organization withdrew the honor.[23]

Jovanovic controversyEdit

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".[24] This lawsuit stemmed from Fairstein's successful prosecution of Jovanovic in the case People v. Jovanovic that was subsequently overturned on appeal,[25] 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.[26]

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.[13]

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.[27]

Dominique Strauss-KahnEdit

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.[28]

Alexandra Cooper SeriesEdit

Linda Fairstein at the University of Scranton 2003 Royden B. Davis Distinguished Author Award presentation.

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.[29]

The titles are:

  • Final Jeopardy (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 (2004)[1]
  • Entombed (2005)[1]
  • Death Dance (2006)[1]
  • Bad Blood (2007)[30]
  • Killer Heat (2008)[30]
  • Lethal Legacy (2009)[31]
  • Hell Gate (2010)[32]
  • Silent Mercy (March 2011)[32]
  • Night Watch (July 2012)[32]
  • Death Angel (2013)[32]
  • Terminal City (2014)[32]
  • Devil's Bridge (2015) [33]
  • Killer Look (2016) [34]
  • Deadfall (2017)
  • Blood Oath (2019)

Devlin Quick SeriesEdit

  • Into the Lion's Den (2016)
  • Digging for Trouble (2017)
  • Secrets from the Deep (2018)


She has also written a non-fiction book, Sexual Violence: Our War Against Rape (1993).[1][32]

Personal lifeEdit

Fairstein grew up in Mount Vernon, New York.[35] She was married to lawyer Justin Feldman from 1987 until his death in 2011 at the age of 92.[36][37] In September 2014 she married her long-time friend and classmate at the University of Virginia Michael Goldberg, another lawyer, at their home in Martha's Vineyard. Fairstein and Goldberg currently reside in the Upper East Side in New York[35]


  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. ^ a b "Author, former prosecutor Linda Fairstein 'humbled' by Women of Achievement honorees". Retrieved 2018-04-19.
  3. ^ a b Bouton, Katherine (1990-02-25). "Linda Fairstein vs. Rape". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
  4. ^ Zraick, Karen (2010-09-28). "Lawsuit Over Sex Arrest Is Dismissed". City Room. Retrieved 2018-04-19.
  5. ^ Sullivan, Ronald. "Father Defends His Son At Central Park Trial". Retrieved 2018-04-19.
  6. ^ Susman, Tina. "Central Park Five: Money was not the issue in settlement with NYC". Retrieved 2018-04-19.
  7. ^ Fairstein, Linda (2004-04-30). "Michael Jackson Arraigned". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
  8. ^ "American Morning". CNN. 2003-12-19. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
  9. ^ "American Morning". CNN. 2003-12-25. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
  10. ^ "…There was this Italian model who showed up to the Weinstein Co. for a business meeting with Harvey Weinstein. And within hours of leaving, she went to the police department here in New York and said that he had groped her and that she was willing to make a police complaint about it. …there was a whole team that swooped in to help Harvey Weinstein fight that in a counterattack effort. There were private investigators who were dispatched to basically dig up dirt on her. There were stories planted in the tabloids to basically disparage her background. There were high-profile attorneys who stepped up to Harvey's side, including Linda Fairstein, the former sex crimes prosecutor here in Manhattan, (with Cyrus Vance) who was willing to facilitate introductions to the current sex crimes prosecutor who was handling the case. And within weeks that case was dead.
  11. ^ Connic, Jennifer (2006-10-22). "Fairstein Addresses Issues of Domestic Violence". Westport Now. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ a b c d e Gewirtz, Rivka (November 19, 2002). "Ash-Blond Ambition Prosecutor Linda Fairstein May Have Tried Too Hard". Village Voice.
  14. ^ Timothy John Sullivan (November 1992). Unequal verdicts: the Central Park jogger trials. American Lawyer Books/Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-671-74237-9.
  15. ^ Schanberg, Sydney. "A Journey Through the Tangled Case of the Central Park Jogger". Village Voice. Archived from the original on 2008-06-21. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Saulny, Susan. "Convictions and Charges Voided In '89 Central Park Jogger Attack". New York Times. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  18. ^ Central Park Jogger Convictions Vacated
  19. ^ "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. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-29. Retrieved 2007-06-22.
  20. ^ Vincent, Glyn (July 7, 2009). "Ken Burns Illuminates Jogger Case". Huffington Post.
  21. ^ Jensen, Elizabeth (2009-09-10). "Ken Burns, the Voice of the Wilderness". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-12-04.
  22. ^ Linda Fairstein on IMDb
  23. ^ Piccoli, Sean; Gold, Michael (November 28, 2018). "After Furor, Literary Group Withdraws Honor for 'Central Park Five' Prosecutor". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  24. ^
  25. ^ Decision of Supreme Court, Appellate Division, December 1999, including summary of all relevant facts
  26. ^ Charges Dismissed in Columbia Sexual Torture Case, The New York Times, November 2, 2001.
  27. ^ Hamblett, Mark. "Court Throws Out Civil Rights Suit Filed After Dismissal of 'Cybersex Torture' Charges". ALM. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
  28. ^ John Solomon (5 June 2012). DSK: The Scandal That Brought Down Dominique Strauss-Kahn. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-1-250-01264-7.
  29. ^ Jeffries, Stuart (2004-02-27). "The Rapist Hunter". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ "Lethal Legacy Review". Kirkus Reviews. February 10, 2009.
  32. ^ a b c d e f "Linda Fairstein". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  33. ^ "Amazon listing".
  34. ^ "Killer Look". Penguin Random House. Penguin Random House. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  35. ^ a b Shattuck, Kathryn (2017-09-12). "Linda Fairstein Looks Crime in the Face and Smiles". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-04-19.
  36. ^ Grimes, William (2011-09-24). "Justin N. Feldman, 92, Dies; Opposed Tammany Hall". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-04-19.
  37. ^ Kaufman, Joanne (2014-04-24). "The Case of the Disappearing Chintz". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-04-19.

Fixes a broken external link in footnote.

External linksEdit