Blockbuster Defamation Case Against Netflix and Director Ava DuVernay Heads to Trial
A defamation case against streaming giant Netflix and acclaimed director Ava DuVernay is set to go to trial, potentially impacting the docudrama genre as a whole. The case involves Linda Fairstein, a former sex crimes prosecutor and best-selling novelist, who is suing Netflix, DuVernay, and another writer and producer of the docudrama series “When They See Us” for their alleged false and defamatory portrayal of her involvement in the Central Park Five case.
The four-episode series, which debuted on Netflix in 2019, tells the story of five Black and Hispanic teenagers who were wrongfully convicted of the rape and assault of a white female jogger in Central Park in 1989. All five men’s convictions were later overturned, and they were awarded a $41 million settlement by the City of New York in 2014. The case has become a symbol of racial inequities in the criminal justice system.
Fairstein argues that the series portrays her as a racist figure in the criminal justice system, despite her limited involvement in the investigation and prosecution of the Central Park jogger case. She claims that Netflix, DuVernay, and producer Attica Locke intentionally sought to make her the face of a racist system. Fairstein points to emails, script notes, and other messages exchanged between the defendants as evidence of their intent to vilify her.
The presiding judge, Kevin Castel, ruled that the lawsuit can proceed to trial, stating that a reasonable fact-finder could find clear and convincing evidence that the defendants acted with reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of Fairstein’s portrayal. The trial is expected to begin in late summer or early fall of next year.
Unlike most defamation cases involving famous individuals, which are often settled or dismissed before trial, this case will proceed to trial. The case could shed light on the secretive workings of Netflix, which keeps its ratings and internal processes private. The defendants argue that they have a constitutionally protected right to tell the story from the perspective of the five innocent men and that artistic license is necessary in creating a docudrama.
Fairstein has already suffered significant harm to her reputation as a result of the series’ release. She was dropped by her literary agency and publisher, forced to resign from nonprofit boards, and faced a social media campaign to cancel her. Her reputation as a pioneering female prosecutor and legal powerhouse has been tarnished, according to her attorney.
While the trial will focus on the defamation case, it is likely that the underlying Central Park Five case will also be discussed. The trial has the potential to expose the underbelly of Hollywood profiteering and its impact on real people’s lives.
As the trial approaches, the outcome of this high-profile case could have far-reaching implications for the docudrama genre and how true stories are portrayed on screen.
Original Story at www.nysun.com – 2023-11-06 18:25:18