Netflix and director Ava Duvernay are being accused of defamation over the portrayal of an interrogation method in the mini-series When They See Us.
Complainant John E. Reid and Associates, Inc. claimed that the Emmy-winning drama misrepresented the Reid Technique, a method of questioning suspects. This has caused the company damages, according to the lawsuit filed on Monday, Oct. 14.
'When They See Us' Interrogation Scene
When They See Us was released to critical acclaim on May 31 on Netflix. It tells the story of five black and brown teenage boys who were accused of assaulting and raping a female jogger in New York's Central Park in 1989. The four-part dramatization showed the harrowing interrogation that the boys experienced and their prosecution afterward.
During a conversation between two characters, the Reid Technique was directly discussed. One character said that the boys were questioned and coerced for 42 hours without food nor bathroom breaks. The method, the character added, "has been universally rejected" — a claim that the complainant said is untrue.
What Is The Reid Technique
John E. Reid and Associates, Inc. has been teaching the Reid Technique, which was developed by a former policeman, since the '70s. However, unlike what was portrayed on the show, the complainant argued that the interrogation method does not use coercion, intimidation, or withhold the suspects of their basic rights. Moreover, the Reid Technique encourages "extreme care" if younger suspects are involved.
The complainant said that more than 500,000 people around the world, including U.S. military and police departments, have been trained to carry out the interrogation method.
In 2017, Wicklander-Zulawski and Associates, a consulting group, announced that it would stop using the Reid Technique over concerns that it results to false confessions. Other countries have also moved away from the controversial interrogation method.
John E. Reid and Associates, Inc. wants Netflix to pay damages. The lawsuit is also demanding that the mini-series be taken off the streaming service until the offending line is removed.
Neither Netflix nor DuVernay has issued a response regarding the lawsuit.
The popular streaming service was sued last year by The Satanic Temple over the use of its Baphomet statue in the series The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. A settlement between two parties was reached in November.