In this March 1988 photo, prosecutor Linda Fairstein, left, is shown during a news conference in New York, seated at the table with then-District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, and Ellen Levin, whose daughter Jennifer Levin was murdered in 1988. (Charles Wenzelberg/AP)

For more than 60 years, Mystery Writers of America has bestowed honors on luminaries such as Stephen King and Alfred Hitchcock. For about 48 hours this week, longtime sex-crimes prosecutor Linda Fairstein joined their ranks.

On Tuesday, Fairstein, the former chief of the sex-crimes unit at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, was awarded the association’s Grand Master Award, its highest honor. “How is THIS news for a thrilling surprise," she wrote on Twitter. “I am Mystery Writers of America 2019 GRANDMASTER.....I’m pinching myself.”

She wasn’t the only one surprised. In a matter of hours, fellow novelists were calling on the association to take the award back.

The problem wasn’t her writing. It was Fairstein’s role as a prosecutor in the Central Park Five jogger rape case, one of the most infamous wrongful conviction cases in New York history.

By Thursday afternoon, Fairstein was no longer a 2019 Grand Master. Responding to the fury from its members, Mystery Writers of America rescinded her award.

“After profound reflection,” the association said in a statement Thursday, “the Board has decided that MWA cannot move forward with an award that lacks support of such a large percentage of our members. Therefore, the Board of Directors has decided to withdraw the Linda Fairstein Grand Master award. We realize that this action will be unsatisfactory to many. We apologize for any pain and disappointment this situation has caused.”

Fairstein, who has written 20 novels about a sex crimes prosecutor named Alexandra Cooper, said in a statement Thursday that she was “extremely disappointed, of course, to have this great award-designation revoked so hastily.”

“I thank MWA for the initial honor and for the joy it inspired, which can never be revoked, and I am happy to enthusiastically support the new Grand Master," she said.

The case of the Central Park Five, referring to the five teenage African American and Hispanic boys who were wrongfully convicted of raping a jogger, was one of the most sensationalized crimes of the 1980s, inflaming racial tensions and adding fodder to rhetoric that warned of teenage “super-predators” tearing apart communities. At the time, Donald Trump took out full-page ads in the nation’s largest newspapers demanding to “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY,” warning of “bands of wild criminals roam[ing] our neighborhoods,” and wishing they be “forced to suffer." He insisted as recently as 2016 that the five men were still guilty despite their later exonerations.

Fairstein was not the lead prosecutor on the case, but as sex crimes unit chief, she was the supervisor.

She was present while the suspects were interrogated for hours, describing her role in a 2002 interview with the New Yorker as being “the 800-pound gorilla, to help [the lead prosecutor] and the cops get the resources they needed." Four of the five boys ultimately falsely confessed on video under pressure. In 2002, however, a serial rapist, Matias Reyes, came forward and said he was the real attacker — a confession bolstered by the fact that his DNA matched the semen found on the victim. The five teenagers were later exonerated.

But as recently as Tuesday, Fairstein has continued to suggest that the Central Park Five are guilty of something — if not the rape, then assault. Fairstein has held steadfast to the belief that “these five men were participants, not only in the other attacks that night but in the attack on the jogger,” as she summarized it to the New Yorker in 2002. Fairstein contended the boys simply “moved on” before Reyes finished the assault, leaving his DNA behind — despite the fact that Reyes has insisted he acted alone.

As recently as July 2018, after thousands of pages of documents from the case were released, Fairstein penned an essay for the New York Law Journal defending the investigation and prosecution, insisting the confessions were not coerced.

On Tuesday, mystery novelists began speaking out loudly against Fairstein’s award, some of whom said they had never heard of Fairstein’s involvement or comments about the Central Park jogger case until this week. But Attica Locke, author of “Bluebird, Bluebird,” was very familiar with her role in the case.

“As a member and 2018 Edgar winner, I am begging you to reconsider having Linda Fairstein serve as a Grand Master in next year’s awards ceremony," Locke, who has writing credits on an upcoming Netflix docuseries about the Central Park rape case, wrote in a tweet addressed to Mystery Writers of America. "She is almost single-handedly responsible for the wrongful incarceration of the Central Park Five. For which she never apologized or recanted her insistence on their guilt for the most heinous of crimes.”

Writing in the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday, mystery novelist Steph Cha said Fairstein’s "presence among us should be the scandal of every conference — it probably would’ve been earlier if there had been more crime writers of color when the Five were exonerated in 2002.”

Mystery Writers of America said it was never aware of the Central Park rape controversy, but by Tuesday, the group announced it was “taking seriously the issues raised" by Locke, who was first to urge the group to withdraw the award.

Responding to Locke on Twitter, Fairstein quibbled with Locke’s suggestion that she was the lead prosecutor who “single-handedly” wrongfully incarcerated the five boys. “Why don’t you and I have a civilized conversation so I can refresh you with the facts?” she said.

In another series of tweets, she again accused the five men of assault. “Talk to me about the other 6 men viciously attacked in the Park that night, which these and others admit doing. You don’t care about them? Good night.”

Their convictions for all other crimes, such as muggings or beatings, were also vacated.

MWA’s Grand Master Award will remain with Martin Cruz Smith, who was presented the award alongside Fairstein.

“MWA will be reevaluating and significantly revising its procedures for selecting honorary awards in the future," MWA said in its statement. "We hope our members will all work with us to move forward from this extremely troubling event and continue to build a strong and inclusive organization.”