In May 2019, Netflix released a four-part program on the real-life story of the Exonerated 5. In 1989, five black boys from New York City were detained and interrogated by local police, and later imprisoned for the brutal sexual assault of a white woman jogger in Central Park. The suspect who committed the crime confessed years later, clearing their names.
The prosecution included former prosecutor Linda Fairstein, who was depicted by Felicity Huffman in the series When They See Us. Now, Fairstein is moving forward with a lawsuit against Netflix, the series’ director Ava DuVernary (Selma, Queen Sugar), and co-writer Attica Locke, Variety reports.
“Throughout the film series, Ms. Fairstein is portrayed as making statements that she never said, taking actions that she did not take—many of them racist and unethical, if not unlawful—in places that she never was on the days and times depicted,” the lawsuit outlines. “On a number of occasions, Ms. Fairstein is portrayed using inflammatory language, referring to young men of color as ‘thugs,’ ‘animals’ and ‘bastards,’ that she never used.”
Fairstein’s attorney, Andrew Miltenberg noted that the series placed his client as if she were “in charge of the investigation and prosecution of the case,” when she “was responsible for neither aspect of the case.”
On the same day this news made headlines, DuVernay released a short clip of an interview with Korey Wise, one of the Exonerated 5 who spent 14 years in prison, the longest stint out of the boys who were falsely accused and imprisoned. The video puts into perspective the aftermath of Wise’s imprisonment and its impact on his loved ones.
“I sacrificed my life, 14 years. Felt like 18 years. All my family, friends, everyone done passed away or went. My family tree is scattered,” he said. “I really don’t have a support system. But to each his own, but you know…the support system really come from within. You have to build that, you have to build that character.”
“Everyday I’m celebrating life.” pic.twitter.com/ERFDYC5RzC
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) March 18, 2020
Netflix states it’ll “vigorously defend” against the lawsuit.