Illinois federal Judge Manish S. Shah has dismissed a defamation lawsuit against Netflix and director Ava DuVernay. According to Variety, the streaming service and the famed visionary were met with a suit from police training company John E. Reid and Associates, that claims the four-part series about the Central Park 5 falsely depicted “The Reid Technique.”
The method was used during interrogations to presumably lead to a coerced confession. Former cop John E. Reid was the alleged creator of the technique (and the firm trains cops on interrogation and interviewing) who filed the lawsuit to contest its use in the miniseries.
Judge Shah noted that since When They See Us cannot be taken as “fact-based” since it shouldn’t be “mistaken for original footage,” the lawsuit has no solid standing. “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,'” Shah wrote, via The Hollywood Reporter. “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.”
The line found within the program that’s being contested is said from a prosecutor toward an NYPD officer toward the end of the series: “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.”
Last week, former prosecutor Linda Fairstein sued Netflix and DuVernay over her depiction in the critically-acclaimed show. “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 states. “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.”
Netflix is planning to fight this suit in court as well.