Today’s column by Jim Dwyer takes up the cause of Central Park Five Prosecutor Elizabeth Lederer and, in seeking to defend her from her detractors, accomplishes perhaps a world record in false equivalence. Dwyer concludes ultimately that the people who think Ms. Lederer unfit to groom future prosecutors at Columbia are “repeating the very mistake of the injustice” visited upon the Central Park Five. I object to that characterization.
Dwyer’s column in the nation’s premier paper could be Exhibit A in a case against America’s elites, charging them with having sunk in moral complacency to the level of Caligula’s courtiers. He clearly thinks that any critique of white people in authority, any calling for an accounting, is a lynching. When it comes to crime in pin stripes, be it treason, torture, or even just a little railroading, white people are given dispensation under the exculpatory passive “Mistakes were made” principle first invoked by Saint Ronald Reagan. (I was astonished to see Dwyer resort to that exact phrase.) On the other hand, when it comes to the black or brown, as we see in Stop-and Frisk New York even today, the operant principle is “Lock ‘em up on suspicion; they’ve surely done something.”
Dwyer is right when he says that there are more people to blame for the criminal negligence of the prosecution than just Lederer. But he evidently concludes from this that therefore nobody should be held accountable. After all, there might be as many as five (5) culprits or more! And besides, one of them is holding a fundraiser for Cy Vance. We can’t point fingers at that sort of person!
Clearly Dwyer hasn’t considered the enormity of Lederer’s offense though. Independent of the anguish caused to the railroaded defendants and their families, independent of the harm caused by the actual rapist left at large due to the prosecutors’ racism and incompetence, a much greater evil was perpetrated: racial hatred was given a huge international boost with the sensationalized fiction the prosecutors concocted to make their case. They had to have known they were trafficking in the most potently toxic of racial stereotypes, one dear to the heart of every Klansman: the white Holy Innocent set upon and defiled by simian blacks devolved to “wilding” animals. The city is lucky it didn’t have an actual lynching, or five, to account for.
Dwyer implies, without offering a shred of evidence, that Lederer’s lengthy career is one of exemplary “public service.” He seems to shrug off the one little lapse that sent the wrong lads to prison while letting a killer go free with another bland formula, “No life is without error.” This too is trivially true, but what Lederer and her colleagues did was not a “mistake,” and not an “error,” it was an atrocity. It gives us every reason to suspect and fear that the rest of her career is less than exemplary.
If Lederer teaches at Columbia as a penitent, chastened by the full realization of her descent into evil, then there might be a case for keeping her on. And she might thereby in a small way atone for her crimes. But there is no evidence of this. More likely she goes on, consummately sure of her “professionalism,” on in the absolute corruption so endemic to our nation’s prosecutors, who wield tremendous power and are almost never punished for abusing it. I’m looking for that petition to get her fired, and signing it.