If you’ve seen Netflix’s When They See Us, then you have probably squirmed like the rest of us when the young boys portraying the “Central Park Five” were peppered with questions by the NYPD as they cried, and were hammered on end with lies until they confessed to crimes they didn’t commit.
That pivotal movie moment, carefully crafted by director Ava DuVernay, is now under fire after John E. Reid and Associates filed a federal lawsuit against Netflix and the acclaimed director saying they defamed the “Reid Technique” a police interrogation method highlighted in the miniseries that they in fact developed, Variety reports.
The company stated the method, which was developed in the 1940s is still used in police law enforcement training today by agencies around the world. But they contend that the dramatization of the technique on screen, including the assumption that it includes coercing confessions, is off base.
In the fourth episode of the series, NYPD detective Michael Sheehan is confronted and asked about using the method which resulted in five defendants copping to the rape of a white female Central Park jogger.
“You squeezed statements out of them after 42 hours of questioning and coercing, without food, bathroom breaks, withholding parental supervision,” the character says. “The Reid Technique has been universally rejected.”
Sheehan fires back: “I don’t even know what the f—ing Reid Technique is, OK? I know what I was taught. I know what I was asked to do and I did it.”
According to the lawsuit the term, saying the method is “universally rejected” is false. The lawsuit claims that the technique doesn’t involve coercion.
“Defendants intended to incite an audience reaction against Reid for what occurred in the Central Park Jogger Case and for the coercive interrogation tactics that continue to be used today,” the suit states. “Defendants published the statements in ‘When They See Us’ in an effort to cause condemnation of the Reid Technique.”
The lawsuit further states that the company has suffered irreparable harm to its reputation and the plaintiff is seeking actual and punitive damages. It also wants an injunction to stop Netflix from further distributing the series as well as secure a portion of the profits from the series.
The “Central Park Five,” as they were called, had their sentences later vacated after DNA evidence proved another man was the actual culprit and he also ultimately confessed.
Duvernay told the painful story from the perspective of the men for the miniseries which mustered up a national conversation that put much of the focus on former prosecutor Linda Fairstein who led the charge to put the teens behind bars.
The men, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise, and Yusef Salaam are now dubbed the “Exonerated Five.”
John E. Reid was a former Chicago police officer who developed the widely-known police interrogation method which was licensed to Wicklander-Zulawski & Associates. One thing that might work in DuVernay’s favor is that in 2017, the company ditched using the method because of claims that it could incite misuse and possibly produce false confessions.