Controversial prosecutor Elizabeth Lederer on Wednesday resigned her post as a lecturer at Columbia Law School, under pressure from the Black Law Students Association and others who objected to her role in the Central Park Five case in which five black and Latino boys were wrongfully convicted of a 1989 rape.
In an email to the law school community Wednesday evening, Dean Gillian Lester wrote that Lederer told her she would not seek reappointment to her lecturer post. That decision comes just one day after the school’s BLSA sent a letter to the administration, calling for her to step down and the school to be more inclusive in its teaching.
A week earlier, a campuswide organization for black students at Columbia released a petition demanding that Lederer be fired. The new Netflix miniseries about the Central Park Five case, “When They See Us,” has renewed interest in the case and increased scrutiny of those involved in the prosecution. Lederer, alongside Linda Fairstein, tried the case.
“I’ve enjoyed my years teaching at [Columbia Law School], and the opportunity it has given me to interact with the many fine students who elected to take my classes,” Lederer said in a statement included in Lester’s email. “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.”
It’s unclear how many years Lederer taught at the school, though her profile on the school’s website says she taught trial practice. According to that bio, she is senior trial counsel in the forensic and cold case unit in the New York County District Attorney’s Office. In that role, Lederer reviews and reinvestigates unsolved murder and rape cases, it says.
“The mini-series has reignited a painful—and vital—national conversation about race, identity, and criminal justice,” Lester wrote in her email. “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.”