Elizabeth Lederer was the lead attorney on the prosecution team working on the Central Park jogger case in 1989; she worked to prosecute and then convict the Central Park Five, whose wrongful convictions and eventual exoneration is the topic of the new Netflix series, When They See Us.
Lederer is played by actress Vera Farmiga in the show. In real life, she is still actively working at New York County District Attorney’s Office as a senior trial counsel. She also lectures at Columbia Law School, according to her faculty bio.
Lederer played a central role in the Central Park Jogger trial, as well as in the interrogations of the Central Park Five. Per ABC News, Lederer interrogated Kevin Richardson, among others, saying at one point,
Richardson: I got in the way. She got kind of like scratched me a little bit.
Prosecutor Elizabeth Lederer: Let me just ask you, you’re saying that she scratched you and you’re indicating a place on your face?
Richardson: Yeh, I think it’s on me right here.
The Central Park Five have since alleged that their confessions were false and coerced from the police, through leading questions and fear tactics.
Here’s what you need to know about where Lederer is now, and what type of role she played in the conviction of the Central Park Five:
Lederer Has Worked as a Prosecutor in the State of New York Since 1979
According to her LinkedIn account, Lederer has worked at the New York County District Attorney’s office since 1979.
Lederer’s Columbia bio reads,
Elizabeth Lederer is an active prosecutor in the New York County District Attorney’s Office. As senior trial counsel in the forensic and cold case unit, Lederer reviews and re-investigates unsolved murder and rape cases.
She has previously worked in the labor racketeering unit investing organized crime in the construction industry, as well as in the sex crimes and career criminal units.
Lederer brings several years of experience trying cases in these fields, and has taught trial practice and general litigation at various institutions.
In 2013, a man named Frank Chi watched a documentary about the Central Park Five and became enraged when he found out Lederer was still practicing. He started a petition to get her fired from Columbia Law School, which received over 5,000 signatures. To The New York Times at the time, Chi said, “It snowballed. It really hit a nerve.”
As The Times noted, Lederer has a lengthy legal hisory of unchallenged cases, despite the fact that she’s largely known for her involvement in the Central Park Five’s case. Lederer is no longer discussing the case in public; she did not comment on the petition in 2013.
Though Lederer has made virtually no public comments on her role in the case since the trial ended, archived articles show the trial was an emotionally charged affair, for obvious reasons. The Los Angeles Times notes that Korey Wise, one of the Five, said to Lederer after he was given his sentence, “You’re going to pay for this. Jesus is going to get you. You made this . . . up.”