A police interrogation firm has sued filmmaker Ava DuVernay over the interrogation scene included in the hit limited series “When They See Us.”
On Monday, the company responsible for creating a controversial interrogation technique filed a lawsuit against Duvernay, claiming it was defamed in the Netflix series. John E. Reid and Associates developed the Reid Technique in the late 1940s, and the company has gone on to train law enforcement using the technique. According to the company, it is the most widely used interrogation method by police agencies worldwide. However, critics say it often results In false confessions.
The technique is mentioned in the fourth episode of the series, in which a character confronts NYPD detective Michael Sheehan with allegations that he coerced a confession out of the five original defendants. The five boys in the Central Park Five case were later exonerated and renamed the #ExoneratedFive. “You squeezed statements out of them after 42 hours of questioning and coercing, without food, bathroom breaks, withholding parental supervision,” the character states. “The Reid Technique has been universally rejected.” Sheehan replies: “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.”
The lawsuit claims the dialogue mischaracterizes the Reid Technique, which it says does not involve coercion and also alleges that it is false to assert that the technique has been “universally rejected.” “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 a condemnation of the Reid Technique.”
The company goes on to say that the series has damaged the company’s image and reputation for which they are now seeking actual and punitive damages. The suit also seeks an injunction barring Netflix from distributing the series in its current form, and a disgorgement of Netflix’s profits from the show, Variety reports.