Elizabeth Lederer resigns amid ‘When They See Us’ backlash

Elizabeth Lederer resigns from Columbia Law School amid 'When They See Us' backlash.

June 14, 2019 by Marsha Dizon

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Elizabeth Lederer (age 66), the assistant district attorney who was the lead prosecutor in the 1989 ‘Central Park Five’ trial has resigned as part-time lecturer at Columbia Law School (CLS).

The controversial trial resulted in the wrongful conviction of five teenagers (dubbed as ‘Central Park Five’), on which the recently released Netflix series “When They See Us” was based. Vera Farmiga played the role of Elizabeth Lederer in the series.

Dean Gillian Lester told the students that Lederer, who still works for the District Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, will not seek reappointment in CLS.

In a statement provided by the school spokeswoman, Lederer said she enjoyed her years of teaching at CLS. “However, given the nature of the recent publicity generated by the Netflix portrayal of the Central Park case, it is best for me not to renew my teaching application,” Lederer said.

Prior to her resignation, the Columbia Black Law Students Association wrote a letter dated June 11, 2019, asking the law school to fire Elizabeth Lederer. Here’s an excerpt from the letter:

The lives of these five boys were forever changed as a result of Lederer’s conduct. During the investigation, Lederer and her colleagues used harmful, racist tactics, including physical abuse and coercion, to force confessions from the five minors. The case they built was founded on false information and an overwhelming lack of physical evidence.

Elizabeth Lederer is the latest fallout from the Netflix series ‘When They See Us’.

Linda Fairstein, the former head of the s*x crimes unit for the District Attorney’s Office of Manhattan, and who was also a prosecutor in the case, resigned from the board of Vassar College and from the boards of non-profit organizations. She was also dropped by Dutton, her publisher.

Fairstein wrote on the Wall Street Journal that the Netflix drama series is “full of distortions and falsehoods.”

‘When They See Us’ was created, co-written and directed by Ava DuVernay. It tells the story of the five teenagers of color — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise and Yusef Salaam — who were all between the ages of 14 and 16 when they were arrested. They were wrongfully convicted in the case of a Central Park jogger named Trisha Meili, who was raped and beaten, resulting in her being in a coma for 12 days.

The five teenagers, who were also known as the ‘Central Park Five’ went on to serve between six and 13 years in prison after convictions in two 1990 trials. But they were exonerated when Matias Reyes confessed to the crime and his DNA matched that at the scene of the crime.

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