Ava DuVernay & Netflix Win Defamation Lawsuit For “When They See Us”

Ava DuVernay & Netflix Win Defamation Lawsuit For “When They See Us”

UPDATE #2 (March 24th): The defamation case against Ava DuVernay and Netflix over When They See Us has been dismissed.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, former cop John E. Reid sued Ava DuVernay and Netflix for a phrase in the limited series concerning his infamous Reid Technique. The line in the movie is:

 “You squeezed statements out of them after 42 hours of questioning and coercing, without food, bathroom breaks, withholding parental supervision. The Reid Technique has been universally rejected.”

But U.S. District Judge Manish S. Shah ruled that the line is protected under the First Amendment. the judges says in the ruling:

“To ensure that public debate does not suffer for lack of ‘imaginative expression’ and ‘rhetorical hyperbole,’ the First Amendment protects from defamation liability any statement that ‘cannot reasonably be interpreted as stating actual facts. When the prosecutor tells Sheehan that the Reid Technique has been ‘universally rejected,’ he is using the kind of loose, hyperbolic rhetoric that is a protected part of the nation’s discourse. That’s true whether one looks closely at the words themselves or more broadly at the context in which they are delivered. … ‘Universally’ is hyperbolic and the prosecutor cannot be taken literally to assert that all intelligent life in the known universe has rejected the technique — which means his statement is an imprecise, overwrought exclamation.”

The judge also determined the statement is made by a fictional character and added that the award-winning series

“sells itself as fact-based but cannot be mistaken for original footage.”

Original Story: Netflix and “When They See Us” creator Ava Duvernay are reportedly facing a lawsuit. The streaming service and director/producer are being sued over the scene surrounding the police interrogation technique depicted in the film.

The scene takes place in the fourth episode of the series. A character confronts NYPD detective Michael Sheehan with allegations that he coerced a confession out of the five original defendants, who were later exonerated.

The company behind a controversial police interrogation technique filed the federal lawsuit. They claim that it was defamed by the series.

John E. Reid and Associates developed the Reid Technique and they claim that it is the most widely used interrogation method by police agencies worldwide. But critics have alleged that its approach can result in false confessions.

The lawsuit claims that this dialogue mischaracterizes the Reid Technique. The suit states,

“Defendants intended to incite an audience reaction against Reid for what occurred in the Central Park Jogger Case and for the coercive interrogation tactics that continue to be used today. Defendants published the statements in ‘When They See Us’ in an effort to cause a condemnation of the Reid Technique.”

Netflix and DuVernay are being sued for defamation. The suit alleges that the series has damaged the company’s reputation, and seeks actual and punitive damages. The suit also seeks an injunction barring Netflix from distributing the series in its current form, and a disgorgement of Netflix’s profits from the show.

Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise, Anton McCray and Kevin Richardson

When They See Us is a is a television miniseries created, co-written, and directed by Ava DuVernay for Netflix, that premiered in four parts on May 31, 2019. It is based on events of the 1989 Central Park jogger case and explores the lives and families of the five male suspects who were prosecuted on charges related to the rape and assault of a woman in Central Park, New York City. The series features an ensemble cast, including Jharrel Jerome, Asante Blackk, Jovan Adepo, Michael K. Williams, Logan Marshall-Green, Joshua Jackson, Blair Underwood, Vera Farmiga, John Leguizamo, Felicity Huffman, Niecy Nash, Aunjanue Ellis, Marsha Stephanie Blake, and Kylie Bunbury. When They See Us received acclaim for its performances and casting.

What are your thoughts on the lawsuit? Let us know in the comments. 

Authored by: Kellie Williams