Hanna Panreck | Contributor
The “Central Park Five” prosecutor resigned from her teaching position at Columbia Law after a student petition insisted on her termination.
Elizabeth Lederer wrongfully prosecuted five teens for the rape and assault of a woman jogging in Central Park thirty years ago, according to USA Today. She served as lead prosecutor on the case.
Columbia Law’s Black Law Student Association (BLSA) started a petition to get Lederer fired because of the role she played in wrongfully prosecuting the Central Park Five. The petition received 10,000 signatures, according to Bloomberg Law. (RELATED: Columbia Journalism Review Endorses One-Sided Journalism In Trans Athlete Debate)
In 1989, the police arrested five boys between the ages of fourteen and sixteen for allegedly raping and beating Trisha Meili, a jogger in the park. The boys’ attorneys maintained that they were coerced into giving false statements, but they were found guilty of robbery, assault, rape and riot. The black and latino teens were sentenced to up to 15 years in prison, AM New York reported.
The Central Park Five were vindicated in 2002 after Matias Reyes confessed to raping and beating Meili.
“The lives of these five boys were forever changed as a result of Lederer’s conduct. During the investigation, Lederer and her colleagues used harmful, racist tactics, including physical abuse and coercion, to force confessions from the five minors,” the BLSA said in a letter to the Columbia Law community.
New statement released from the @ColumbiaLaw Black Law Students Association
Students call for #CentralPark5 prosecutor Elizabeth Lederer to be fired from her Lecturer in Law position
Also call on the law school to center anti-racism in its curriculum and pedagogy pic.twitter.com/U8By81KWBB
— Barred and Boujee (@AudreLawdAMercy) June 11, 2019
Netflix’s release of “When They See Us,” has also brought a lot of attention to the 1989 case. The series is directly based on the wrongful conviction of the Central Park Five and the role prosecutors Lederer and Linda Fairstein played in the conviction.
“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 said in a statement to the Columbia Community.
— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) June 12, 2019
“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 issue of our time,” Lester said in an email to the campus community.
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