Netflix and Ava DuVernay Sued by Police Interrogation Firm

The company behind a controversial police interrogation technique filed a federal lawsuit on Monday against Netflix and director Ava DuVernay, claiming that it was defamed in DuVernay’s miniseries on the Central Park jogger case.

John E. Reid and Associates developed the Reid Technique in the late 1940s, and it has continued to offer training materials and courses to law enforcement since then. According to the company, it is the most widely used interrogation method by police agencies worldwide. But critics have alleged that its approach can result in false confessions.

The technique is mentioned in the fourth episode of “When They See Us,” the dramatized series on the Central Park Five case released by Netflix in May. A character confronts NYPD detective Michael Sheehan with allegations that he coerced a confession out of the five original defendants, who were later exonerated.

“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 that this dialogue mischaracterizes the Reid Technique, which it says does not involve coercion. The suit 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 suit alleges that the series has damaged the company’s reputation, and seeks 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.

John E. Reid, a former Chicago police officer, wrote a textbook on police interrogation. He died in 1982, but his company continues to offer training in the Reid Technique. The company also licensed its method to Wicklander-Zulawski & Associates, a firm run by two former John E. Reid and Associates employees. For decades, Wicklander-Zulawski offered a competing version of the Reid Technique, but in 2017 the firm announced that it had abandoned the method, citing the risk of false confessions arising from the misuse of the approach.

Related:

More Biz

  • Sofar Sounds Launches 'Listening Room' Livestream

    Sofar Sounds Launches 'Listening Room' Livestream

    Sofar Sounds — which has made a name and a business for itself by staging “secret gigs and intimate concerts” featuring emerging artists for an invited, engaged audience — is among the many businesses in the live-entertainment space that have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. While it was thriving both as a platform — [...]

  • John Wick Chronicles

    'John Wick' Producer Ordered to Pay Huayi Bros. Over Axed China Release

    The producer of “John Wick” has been ordered to pay $2.4 million to Huayi Bros. in connection with a failed attempt to release the violent action film in China. Huayi Bros. agreed in 2013 to pay the producer a $1.5 million minimum guarantee to distribute the film in China, provided the movie made it past [...]

  • Coronavirus Placeholder COVID19 Variety

    Entertainment, Tech Companies Making Coronavirus Donations

    There’s no question that Hollywood has been hard hit by the coronavirus shutdowns, with productions worldwide shuttering to keep their workers safe from contracting Covid-19. Some corporations, such as Disney, are pledging to pay many of their furloughed employees during the shutdown, while others are creating funds for workers and donating to medical efforts. Here [...]

  • Studio Babelsberg

    Terminated 'Matrix 4,' 'Uncharted' Film Crews Demand Help From Studio Babelsberg

    Germany’s Studio Babelsberg is seeking to find a settlement with hundreds of film crew members following the shutdown earlier this month of Warner Bros.’ “The Matrix 4” and Sony Pictures’ “Uncharted” amid the coronavirus outbreak. The production stop has left many independent film crew members without pay and more than 300 have formed a working [...]

  • 20190702_788LCDP_S4_tamaraarranz_DSC_9303.nef

    Spanish TV Industry Adjusts to Harsh Realities of the Coronavirus Crisis

    The Spanish TV industry has been shaken by the dramatic impact of the coronavirus crisis, but it is fighting back. Industry players have reacted fast, pushing forward with development, post-production and other business activities using online tools, and with the expectation of supporting funds from both public and private initiatives that will mitigate the effects [...]

  • Bob Chapek Bob Iger Disney

    Bob Iger to Give Up Salary, Other Senior Disney Executives to Take Pay Cuts

    Disney has joined the list of companies implementing sizable pay cuts for senior executives amid the upheaval caused by the coronavirus crisis. Bob Iger, who shifted from chairman-CEO to executive chairman last month, has opted to forgo his salary for the year. Bob Chapek, who succeeded Iger as CEO, has taken a 50% pay cut. [...]

  • Universal Music Group

    Universal Music Group Announces Coronavirus-Relief Initiatives

    Universal Music Group today announced several initiatives to bring relief to musicians, its employees and the music industry in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that in a short time has devastated so much of the global economy. It also pledged to assist its artists in their charitable efforts The non-UMG effort comes in the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content