First Lawsuit against “When They See Us” is dismissed

Justice Prevails!

Filmmaker Ava Duvernay and Powerhouse streaming service Netflix can breath a little easier after defeating a defamation lawsuit for a line in the film When they See Us.

What We Know: 

  •  Duvernay and Netflix were sued for defamation by John E. Reid and Associates, the company known for pioneering the “Reid Technique”. 
  • The Reid Technique was named after and created by the late John E. Reid a former Chicago police officer, psychologist, and polygraph expert.
  • In the film When They See Us, a conversation occurs between prosecutors and an NYPD detective who took part in getting the “Central Park Five” to confess.
  • During the conversation the prosecutor said “You squeezed statements out of them after 42 hours of questioning and coercing, without food, bathroom breaks, and withholding parental supervision.The Reid Technique has been “universally rejected”. This line is what landed Duvernay and Netflix in hot water. 
  • John E Reid and Associates maintained torture is not apart of the Reid Techique. In their claim it states, the Reid Technique does not involve “denying a subject of any rights” or conducting excessively long interrogations”.
  •  The case was dismissed by the U.S. District Judge Manish S. Shah because When they See Us is protected by the First Amendment.
  • Shah explained why she dismissed the case stating,  “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”. 

Despite this win, former New York prosecutor Linda Fairstein filed her own lawsuit last week over her portrayal in the series. According to Fairstein, the film wrongfully portrayed her as a “racist, unethical villain”. 




Jasmine Ford is a Digital Intern at UnmutedCo.