Central Park Five prosecutor resigns from organizations amid backlash after Netflix series

Linda Fairstein's role in the notorious case is under new scrutiny in the wake of director Ava DuVernay's Netflix miniseries, "When They See Us.”

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By Doha Madani and Janelle Griffith

Former Manhattan prosecutor Linda Fairstein resigned from Vassar College's board of trustees Tuesday amid a new wave of backlash over her role in the infamous Central Park Five case.

Fairstein's role in the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of five teenagers of color in 1990, after a white woman was attacked in Central Park, has come under new scrutiny after director Ava DuVernay released a Netflix miniseries about the case, "When They See Us."

The so-called Central Park Five — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise and Yusef Salaam — were vindicated 13 years after the crime when a serial rapist confessed to the attack.

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Fairstein — played by Felicity Huffman in "When They See Us" — ran the district attorney's sex crimes unit at the time of the case. The Netflix series prompted the #CancelLindaFairstein hashtag on social media and calls for her prior cases to be re-examined.

Vassar College President Elizabeth Bradley announced that Fairstein resigned from the board because she "believed that her continuing as a Board member would be harmful to Vassar" due to the backlash.

"The events of the last few days have underscored how the history of racial and ethnic tensions in this country continue to deeply influence us today, and in ways that change over time," Bradley said.

Students at Vassar began an online petition to remove Fairstein from the board and gained more than 13,000 signatures in two days, sparking the school to call an executive committee review to discuss the concerns.

A similar petition was circulated by the Black Students' Organization at Columbia University, asking that Fairstein be stripped of an Award for Excellence given to her by the Columbia University School of Medicine.

The petition also demands that Elizabeth Lederer, who was the lead prosecutor in the Central Park Five case, step down from her position as Lecturer in Law at the Columbia University Law School.

As of Wednesday evening, the Columbia petition had more than 3,000 signatures.

Fairstein has also resigned from Safe Horizon, a nonprofit organization aiding victims of domestic abuse in New York City. Safe Horizon confirmed her resignation to NBC News on Tuesday.