The lead prosecutor of the Central Park Jogger case has resigned from Columbia Law School, amid renewed scrutiny over her involvement in the 1989 case.
Elizabeth Lederer announced her decision in a statement shared by Columbia Law School Dean Law Gillian Lester. Lederer worked part-time at the university as an adjunct faculty member and lecturer in law.
"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," she said in a statement. "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 is played by Vera Farmiga in Netflix's new drama When They See Us. The four-part miniseries tells the real-life story of Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Kevin Richardson—five teenagers of color who were wrongly convicted of assault and rape. The defendants spent between six and 13 years in prison before DNA tests proved their innocence. The men were exonerated in 2002, and were awarded a $41-million settlement in 2014.
Netflix recently announced that When They See Us has become it's most-watched original series; however, the platform did not provide exact streaming figures.
The hit miniseries, written and directed by Ava DuVernay, also prompted Columbia students to launch a petition calling for Lederer's termination from the school.
The Black Law Students Association at Columbia University wrote in a letter:
"The lives of these five boys were forever changed as a result of Lederer's conduct," the letter read. "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. As a result, five boys spent their formative years in prison until the charges were vacated in 2002 after the real perpetrator confessed to the crime and DNA evidence linking him to the crime was discovered."
Linda Fairstein, the former head of the Manhattan sex crimes unit, has also received backlash for involvement in the Central Park Jogger case. Since her depiction in the DuVernay series, Fairstein has been dropped by her booked publisher and has resigned Vassar College's board of trustees as well as her positions with multiple philanthropic organizations.