Ava Duvernay's Netflix series reignites Central Park Five debate

Linda Fairstein strongly disputed her portrayal in 'When They See Us,' a dramatic retelling of five teens convicted in 1990 of raping and beating a woman. Their convictions were later vacated.
8:23 | 06/12/19

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Transcript for Ava Duvernay's Netflix series reignites Central Park Five debate
They made us lie. Right? Reporter: A crucial turning point captured in the new Netflix mini series "When they see us." Police officers! Reporter: Of this role and retelling of the infamous retelling of the central park The reason the case became such a sensation is because it was a true intersection of really toxic issues. Racial bias, sexual assault and the rise of the tabloid media. Reporter: The convictions were vacated in what has become a permanent stain on the justice system. Although they were never exonerated some argue the public perception around them should The language around exonerated five is far more powerful and transformative than the central park five. When we hear central park five we hear crime, trauma, violence whchlts we hear exonerated five we move the spotlight off the kids and onto a system. Reporter: The Netflix series, executive produced by Oprah Winfrey, sparking renewed discussion about the polarizing case and how authorities handled it. Especially the woman in charge of the city's sex crimes unit, portrayed by felicity Huffman in the series. This is not business as usual. The press is crawling all over this. No kid gloves here. These are not kids. They raped this woman. Reporter: The real Linda fairstein speaking out, calling it an outright fabrication that defames her. Duber nay tweeting out, expected and typical, onward. It portrays her as determined to pursue conviction at all costs. I think there's little doubt hot villain is. I would argue it's Linda. Reporter: She agrees with the boys' convictions being vacated, but she says they were guilty of other crimes which should not have been cleared. She says the film attempts to portray me as an overzealous prosecutor and a bigot. None of this is true. She added that she never made any of the comments the screenwriter attributes to me. Ms. Duverneay does not define me and the film does not speak the truth. A serial rapist confessed to the rape alone. At the time of his confession, Reyes was already behind bars for another horrific rape. Did you attack the central park Yeah, I did. Reporter: Did you rape her? Yeah. Reporter: Did you leave her for dead? I thought I left her for dead. Reporter: A DNA test found he was a perfect match, something prosecutors never had from the five teenaged boys. You have people who are bewildered that the system could be so flawed that they could arrest, charge and convict five people. And nationally, the conversation is at best flawed and at worst working in such a way that the vulnerable get criminalized whether they did it or not. Reporter: Reyes had raped another woman in central park two days before Meile. He insists he did the crime alone. At the right-hand side, I saw a piece of branch. I struck her over the head with the branch and she fell forward. I grabbed her to drag her inside the bushes. As I dragged her in there I remember I took off her clothes. Reporter: The 2012 pbs documentary, the "Central park five" examines the case for the first time from the men's perspective. I thought they might take us to the back of the precinct and kill us. Reporter: Fairstein took issue with pbs's portrayal. That film was made while we had the equivalent of a gag order from a judge. We could not speak publicly. The dater of the film maker had worked for the legal team of the five. So I didn't think we'd get a fair hearing. Reporter: Fairstein became a successful novelist and celebrated advocate for sexual assault survivors. Final jeopardy. Reporter: But in the wake of Netflix's take on the case, fairstein's life and leg I have legacy are being called into question. In the days since the Netflix series debuted, social media has taken her to task with the #cancellindafairstein, and online petitions have demanded her resignations, even a request to prosecutor her. She has resigned from the boards of several organizations and has been dropped by her publisher. She declined an interview request from ABC news. We were told the case has long been one duverneay wanted to The central park five case was a case we used to examine the myth of criminality. You're being lied to. It's duvernay's imaginary version of Linda fairstein. Reporter: Some police involved in the case are defendinfairstein, including Eric Reynolds. It's appalling. Most people who are against her, they hate her, they don't know the facts of the case. Reporter: The jogger, Meile said it's possible Reyes did not act alone. There is medical evidence to support that more than one person was responsible for the attack on me. In the wake of the prosecutors dropping the charges against all of them, the police commissioned an independent report to evaluate the police's conduct. And that report concluded that it was still very likely that they attacked these other people in the park and that maybe they were even involved in the attack on the jogger. Reporter: While the report concluded that police had not engaged in any misconduct in obtaining the confessions, the men continue to maintain that they were coerced into confessing and that they are innocent of all crime. The backlash that Linda fairstein has received is fair. We don't want to isolate or scapegoat her. The problem with that narrative is it makes us believe if we could just get rid of that bad apple, or if the bad apple had never existed we would be fine. But it's not a bad apple, it's a spoiled system. Reporter: As the public's fascination with the case continues the men at the center of the saga have sat down with Oprah Winfrey in an interview to air this week on Netflix. Watching this is painful but necessary. There will never be closure in the central park five case. No amount of money can bring back the years that those boys lost, the innocence that was taken from them. And you have five boys who are attempting to piece together the shards and fragments of their lives after one of the most horrific injustices in American history.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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