On Wednesday evening Elizabeth Lederer, a Columbia law professor known for her involvement as a prosecutor in the Central Park Five case, resigned from her position on Columbia’s faculty, citing the resurgence of publicity surrounding the case due to the Netflix limited series “When They See Us,” which portrayed Lederer as an aggressive prosecutor who wrongfully convicted five Black and Latinx teenagers for the sexual assault and rape of Trisha Meili.
In a letter shared on Twitter Tuesday, the Black Law Students Association at Columbia Law called for Lederer’s departure as well as anti-racist training for all Columbia Law professors. Earlier, a petition started by Columbia’s Black Student Organization was circulated around the campus calling for Lederer’s resignation; the petition received over 10,000 signatures.
In 2013, a similar petition demanding Lederer’s departure gained traction after the release of The Central Park Five (2012), a documentary detailing the events of the case. While the petition had over 5,000 signatures, Columbia University took no action, instead choosing to remove all mentions the case from her faculty biography.
Lederer’s resignation comes after Linda Fairstein stepped down from Vassar College’s Board of Trustees due to her involvement in the case. Ava DuVernay’s work in directing “When They See Us” has opened up many conversations about race in our justice system, and shows the cruelties faced by people of color in a system that seeks to paint them as criminals.
Media Resources: The New York Times, 6/12/19; The Black Law Students Association at Columbia University, 6/11/19; Columbia Black Student Organization, 6/4/19; The New York Times, 5/2/13; Feminist Newswire 6/10/19