A federal judge went against Netflix and director Ava DuVernay on Monday––accusing them of a defamation suit over the platform’s American drama miniseries about the Central Park case titled When They See Us.
A police training firm by the name of John E. Reid and Associates filed the lawsuit last fall. This was because they thought the series has falsely portrayed the “Reid Technique,” the controversial interrogation technique used in the series.
In the ruling, Judge Manish S. Shah found that the series’ depiction of the technique was under the First Amendment.
The four-part Netflix series focused on the conviction of five black and Larino teenagers who were accused of assaulting and raping a woman in Central Park in 1989. The series featured a fictionalized prosecutor who confronts an NYPD detective who had an allegation of a coerced confession.
“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.”
John E. Reid and Associates alleged that the statement was falsely depicted the technique––criticizing specifically that the technique was “universally rejected.”
However, Judge Shah had concluded that the series actually used hyperbolic rhetoric in regards to the technique––enough to be protected from a defamation claim.
“‘Universally’ is hyperbolic and the prosecutor cannot be taken literally to assert that all intelligent life in the known universe has rejected the technique — which means his statement is an imprecise, overwrought exclamation,” Shah wrote. “The statement was also made by a fictionalized character, during a fictionalized conversation… And while labeling something ‘fictitious’ will not insulate it from a defamation action… placing non-verifiable hyperbole in the mouth of a fictionalized character with an ax to grind provides a few layers of protection from civil damages for defamation.”
Netflix has been having a hard time cleaning up on aisle 3 as last week, former prosecutor Linda Fairstein also filed her own defamation lawsuit against the platform and DuVernay over the series as she also thought she was falsely depicted in the series.
Again, Netflix said that they would also be defending that lawsuit.