Belfast Telegraph

Netflix and Ava DuVernay sued over interrogation scene in When They See Us

The acclaimed series tells the story of the so-called Central Park Five.

Netflix and filmmaker Ava DuVernay have been sued by the company behind a controversial police interrogation technique featured in acclaimed drama When They See Us (Elijah Nouvelage/Invision/AP)
Netflix and filmmaker Ava DuVernay have been sued by the company behind a controversial police interrogation technique featured in acclaimed drama When They See Us (Elijah Nouvelage/Invision/AP)

By Keiran Southern, PA Los Angeles Correspondent

Netflix and filmmaker Ava DuVernay have been sued by the company behind a controversial police interrogation technique featured in acclaimed drama When They See Us.

John E Reid And Associates developed the Reid Technique in the late 1940s and the company say it is one of the most widely used interrogation methods by police forces around the world.

However, critics say it can elicit false confessions from suspects.

The technique features in episode four of When They See Us, an Emmy Award-winning drama based on the true story of the so-called Central Park Five.

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Filmmaker Ava DuVernay is being sued over her Netflix series When They See Us (Ian West/PA)

Five teenagers, all black or Hispanic, were wrongly convicted of the rape and assault of a white jogger in New York in 1989.

In the show, a New York Police Department detective is confronted with allegations he coerced a confession from one of the men.

“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.”

The detective, named Michael Sheehan, responds: “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.”

John E Reid And Associates filed a lawsuit in the state of Illinois, saying the technique does not involve coercion.

The legal document states: “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.

“Defendants published the statements in When They See Us in an effort to cause a condemnation of the Reid Technique.”

The lawsuit alleges Netflix has harmed John E Reid And Associates’ reputation and is seeking damages.

The company is also seeking an injunction banning Netflix from distributing When They See Us in its current form, and a portion of the streaming giant’s profits from the show.

Netflix said it had no comment in response to the lawsuit. DuVernay has been approached for comment.

When They See Us arrived on Netflix in May to critical acclaim.

At the Emmy Awards in September it was nominated for 11 prizes, with star Jharrel Jerome winning outstanding lead actor in a limited series or movie.

PA

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