Prosecutor from the Central Park Five case resigns in wake of Netflix series anger

Ben Arnold
Contributor
Vera Farmiga as Elizabeth Lederer in When They See Us (Credit: Netflix)

One of the prosecutors in the infamous Central Park Five case has handed in her resignation from the prestigious Columbia Law School in the wake of anger generated by the Netflix series When They See Us.

According to The New York Post, Elizabeth Lederer, who is a part-time lecturer at Columbia, will not be seeking reappointment next year.

Lederer is played by actress Vera Farmiga in director Ava DuVernay's mini-series, which has been a critical hit.

Read more: Central Park Five prosecutor calls series ‘a fabrication’

She was the assistant district attorney at the time of the case, and prosecuted five teenagers in 1989 for the assault and rape of a woman who was jogging in Central Park.

They were imprisoned, serving between six and 13 years each in prison, but had their convictions quashed in 2002 after the real culprit, serial rapist Matias Reyes, confessed to the crime.

District Attorney Elizabeth Lederer leaves Court on lunch break at the Central Park Jogger trial. October 29, 1990. (Photo by Don Halasy/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)

“I’ve enjoyed my years teaching at CLS, and the opportunity it has given me to interact with the many fine students who elected to take my classes,” Lederer said in a letter to her faculty.

“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.”

The law school's dean Gillian Lester added that the series had 'reignited a painful — and vital — national conversation about race, identity, and criminal justice'.

(L-R) Kevin Richardson, Antron Mccray, Raymond Santana Jr., Korey Wise, and Yusef Salaam, collectively known as the "Central Park Five", attend the World Premiere of Netflix's "When They See Us". (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)

“I am deeply committed to fostering a learning environment that furthers this important and ongoing dialogue, one that draws upon the lived experiences of all members of our community and actively confronts the most difficult issues of our time,” she added.

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Lederer's resignation comes after crime novelist Linda Fairstein, a former Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor who is also seen in the series, played by Felicity Huffman, was dropped by her publisher.

Fairstein has accused the show of being 'so full of distortions and falsehoods as to be an outright fabrication'.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, she said: “Ms. DuVernay’s film attempts to portray me as an overzealous prosecutor and a bigot, the police as incompetent or worse, and the five suspects as innocent of all charges against them.

Daily News front page dated July 17, 1990. Prosecutor Elizabeth Lederer (right) hears testimony. Jogger, facing three for first time, was in court 12 minutes. (Photo By: /NY Daily News via Getty Images)

“None of this is true.

“It shouldn’t have been hard for Ms. DuVernay to discover the truth. Instead, she has written an utterly false narrative involving an evil mastermind (me) and the falsely accused (the five).”

The series has become the most-watched show on Netflix, according to the streaming service.