DuVernay may be radio silent today on this, Netflix ain’t having any of it.
“Linda Fairstein’s frivolous lawsuit is without merit,” a spokesperson for the streamer said Wednesday morning after the ex-Assistant District Attorney for New York County filed her damages and more seeking suit in federal court in Florida. “We intend to vigorously defend When They See Us and Ava DuVernay and Attica Locke, the incredible team behind the series,” Netflix added.
In language reminiscent of a WSJ op-ed she wrote back in June 2019, Fairstein says that the four-part series paints her as a “racist, unethical villain who is determined to jail innocent children of color at any cost.” Portrayed in WTSU by Felicity Huffman, who had her own high profile incarcerating dalliance with the criminal justice system last year out of Operation Varsity Blues, the one-time ICM Partners repped Fairstein’s complaint goes on to insist that her depictions in the mini “are complete fabrications and readily contradicted by evidence in the public record.”
Co-written by DuVernay, When They See Us details the sprint by police, prosecutors, Donald Trump and much of the media to tainted justice against five young men falsely accused in the near-fatal 1989 rape of a woman who was jogging in Central Park. Then head of the D.A.’s sex crimes unit, Fairstein was a very public presence in the various cases and trials and certainly took credit at the time for the convictions of Rayomond Santana, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise.
In 2001, serial rapist and murderer Matias Reyes confessed to the attack while behind bars for another crime; his statements were confirmed by DNA evidence and knowledge of the scene. While the Exonerated Five eventually saw their names cleared in 2014 after a long long effort, Reyes was never prosecuted for the rape because the Empire State’s then statute of limitations on such sex crimes had expired.
Along with unspecified damages and claims her post-prosecution career and reputation has been damaged by WTSU, Fairstein is seeking an apology, a disclaimer on the series and the removal of the particular scenes she alleges are not accurate. WTSU co-writer Locke is also named as defendant in the matter.
This is actually the second defamation suit that Netflix and DuVernay have been hit with over the May 31, 2019 debuting show. In October of last year, just after WTSU’s Jharrel Jerome picked up his Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie, John E. Reid & Associates took the duo to court over a line in the series calling the company’s once widely used and controversial interrogation technique as “universally rejected.”
Still being battled out in federal court, that suit should be dismissed, the streamer and the director said in paperwork of their own last November.
Paperwork that will undoubtedly have a not so surprising resemblance to their eventual formal response to Fairstein’s lawsuit, I wager.