As Ava DuVernay has said herself, there was not one villain in the Central Park 5 case. The villain was then, and still is, the system. Linda Fairstein, however, has been singled out by many (fairly so), which has resulted in her being forced to step off several boards and her publisher dropping her. Part of the reason that so much attention has been focused on Fairstein in the weeks after When They See Us is because she’s invited the attention upon herself by steadfastly defending the conviction and denying that she was an overzealous bigot (she is totally an overzealous bigot).
But it was Elizabeth Lederer who was actually lead prosecutor on the case at trial. The backlash in the wake of When They See Us hasn’t been as intense for Lederer, however, for a couple of reasons: 1) she is portrayed with slightly more sympathy in the mini-series by Vera Farmiga — she is seen occasionally pushing back on Fairstein, though ultimately, she did exactly as she was told, played an instrumental role in the confessions, and secured the convictions. But also, 2) Lederer hasn’t been running around trying to defend those bad actions and inserting herself back into the story every chance she gets.
However, after protests from the Black Law Students Association at Columbia, and after they secured 10,000 signatures on a petition (supported by several other student organizations), Elizabeth Lederer has decided to resign from her teaching position at the Columbia School of Law. The school itself, actually, had decided not to take any action — the dean basically said that, though it was good that the Central Park 5 had been exonerated — the prosecutors themselves had not committed any wrongdoing, according to the 2002 Morgenthau report, which 👀.
Lederer cited When They See Us and the publicity around it as the reason for her decision to step down, but also, um, she’s still a prosecutor with the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which is kind of insane.
Header Image Source: Getty