Central Park 5 Film Director Sued by Police Training Firm

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Photo courtesy PBS

John E. Reid and Associates Inc., a police interrogation training and consulting firm, sued Netflix, writer-director Ava DuVernay, and her distribution company Array over a single disparaging comment made by a character in their “Central Park Five” docudrama “When They See Us,” reports Slate.com.

In the final installment of the four-part series, Manhattan prosecutor Nancy Ryan (played by Famke Janssen) and a co-investigator confront New York police detective Michael Sheehan (William Sadler) over the coercive interrogation techniques used in the Central Park Five case. Ryan’s partner, listed as “Man” in the lawsuit, lays into Sheehan saying, “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.”

The complaint says the defendants rejected a demand from Reid to excise the offending scene or issue a retraction. The Reid firm took issue with this characterization of the Reid technique, saying that the docudrama “falsely represents that squeezing and coercing statements from juvenile subjects after long hours of questioning without food, bathroom breaks or parental supervision, is synonymous with the Reid Technique.”

In 2017, another Illinois-based interrogation consulting firm, Wicklander-Zulawski and Associates, announced that it would be stepping away from the Reid technique and other “confrontational” methods, saying that 29 percent of all DNA-based exonerations in the U.S. since 1989 involved false confessions.

The confession that helped establish John Reid’s career, the nine-hour interrogation of 24-year-old Darrel Parker, wrongfully convicted of brutally raping and murdering his 22-year-old wife in 1955, was  overturned by the state of Nebraska in 2012.

Arguments over the procedures used to convict the defendants often miss the “real culprit” behind the Central Park 5 tragedy, TCR columnist James Doyle wrote earlier this year. “The fact is, the Central Park wrongful convictions were system failures in which many people—cops, defenders, judges, forensic scientists—had a hand, either by making a mistake or failing to catch one,” he wrote.

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