The backlash against Linda Fairstein and Elizabeth Lederer, as a result of Ava DuVernay’s searing four-part Netflix limited series When They See Us, continues.
But despite calls to reopen past cases prosecuted by the two, Manhattan’s current District Attorney is not budging.
Cyrus Vance Jr. has denied a request by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams to reopen cases prosecuted by Linda Fairstein and Elizabeth Lederer, the latter of whom recently resigned from her position as a part-time lecturer at Columbia Law School.
As portrayed by Felicity Huffman in When They See Us, Linda Fairstein was the head of the Manhattan D.A.’s Sex Crimes Unit from 1976 to 2002. Korey Wise, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Yusef Salaam were wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for the 1989 rape and assault of Trisha Melli while she was jogging in Central Park, despite evidence that cleared all five of them of any wrongdoing. Elizabeth Lederer was the main prosecutor on the case. The five boys, then branded by the media as the Central Park Five each spent several years in prison before being eventually exonerated in 2002 after the real perpetrator came forward.
According to the New York Daily News, Williams and three other lawyer groups wrote a letter to Vance, specifically requesting that he reopen the cases handled by Fairstein and Lederer, arguing that “it is imperative that you investigate every case that has been led by Ms. Fairstein and Ms. Lederer to ensure that your office is not responsible for even one more innocent black or brown life sitting in prison today.”
“It is finally time to close this ugly chapter of negligence and recognize that the injustice of this case and the way it was prosecuted goes much deeper than we know,” the lawyer groups wrote to Vance according to the paper. “Let’s not wait any longer. Innocent people could be wasting away in jail. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past.”
Despite the demand to reopen cases handled by Fairstein and Lederer to decipher if innocent people were wrongfully incarcerated for sex crimes they may not have committed, Vance has declined to do so, despite calling what happened to the exonerated men “profound injustice.”
“I do not intend to take either action at this time,” he wrote in a letter to Williams. The Manhattan District Attorney also said Lederer would not be fired, calling her “an attorney in good standing in this office.”
Recently, Fairstein was dropped by a number of entities, including the literary agency, ICM Partners.