Ava DuVernay and Netflix Being Sued for Defamation - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise magazine Fall 2019 issue

There’s a new chapter in the legal issues surrounding the Central Park Five. But this time it’s a dispute about the fictional characters that’s leading to a day in court. According to Vulture, filmmaker Ava DuVernay and Netflix are being sued for defamation.

John E. Reid and Associates Inc., a police interrogation training and consulting firm, has filed a lawsuit against the streaming giant, DuVernay, and her distribution company Array over a line in the script for their Central Park Five docudrama When They See Us.

The company developed the Reid Technique in the late 1940s, and it has continued to offer training materials and courses to law enforcement since then. As stated on the company’s website, “Our specialized interrogation training seminars are designed for law enforcement and government investigators, corporate security, and loss prevention professionals.” It is supposedly the most widely used interrogation method by police agencies worldwide. Critics have alleged that its approach can result in false confessions.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, in the final episode of the series, a discussion ensues between Manhattan Assistant D.A. Nancy Ryan and a New York City detective who was involved in eliciting the confessions of the Central Park Five. During this conversation, Ryan’s partner says, “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. That’s truth to you.”

“The program falsely represents that squeezing and coercing statements from juvenile subjects after long hours of questioning without food, bathroom breaks, or parental supervision is synonymous with the Reid Technique” states in the lawsuit filed.

When They See Us is the Netflix documentary directed by DuVernay that chronicled the story of the wrongful conviction of the now Exonerated Five. Jharrel Jerome won an Emmy for his portrayal of Korey Wise in this series.