Last month, Netflix and director Ava DuVernay of When They See Us experienced their first taste of success at the 2019 Primetime Emmy Awards. The series focussed on the notorious true story of the Central Park Five and its lead actor Jharrel Jerome, took out the honour of Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series amid a slew of nominations. However, the celebrations have since been short lived after new reports reveal that the streaming service will be sued for defamation.
The series explores the stages before five black teenagers were charged with rape – a crime they did not commit. Within the episodes, it depicts the interrogation ‘Reid Technique’ and is referred to as “universally rejected”.
During the season finale of When They See Us, the detective takes Ryan to task for her interrogation of the suspects: “You squeezed statements out of them after 42 hours of questioning and coercing, without food, bathroom breaks, withholding parental supervision. The Reid Technique has been universally rejected. That’s truth to you.”
Now, Chicago-based law firm, John E. Reid & Associates Inc., has filed a defamation suit, with Netflix accused of misrepresenting the Reid Technique developed by the firm’s founder.
With the addition of small interrogation rooms and hours of increasing pressure from detectives, the Reid Technique is based on the presumption of guilt and makes the suspect believe they have evidence (often fabricated or exaggerated) to coerce a confession. While it is still used today, many federal investigators have parted ways with the strategy as it has been found to produce false confessions.
Reid and Associates argue that this is a false representation of their method, which they claim depicts coercion, intimidation, and denial of basic human rights. According to BBC, as well as seeking damages, the firm is also requesting that the show be taken off Netflix until the quote in question is removed.
Stay tuned for further developments.