‘When They See Us’: Netflix and Ava DuVernay settle defamation lawsuit
(Credit: Netflix)

Netflix News

'When They See Us': Netflix and Ava DuVernay settle defamation lawsuit

Netflix and series creator Ava DuVernay have reached a settlement in the defamation lawsuit regarding the streamer’s 2019 drama When They See Us. The director and streaming platform came under fire following the series’ arrival, with former New York City prosecutor Linda Fairstein filing for defamation due to an inaccurate portrayal. 

Across four episodes, the series recreated the true story of five black and Latino teenagers, known as the Central Park Five, who were falsely accused of assaulting and raping a woman in Central Park in 1989.

Nearly five years after the series’ arrival, the defamation case has been settled outside of court, just a week before its scheduled commencement. According to DuVernay, Fairstein didn’t seek money for herself. Instead, she requested that Netflix donate $1million (£780,000) to the Innocence Project, an organisation dedicated to exonerating wrongly convicted individuals.

Netflix also agreed to revise the four-part drama. Currently, a disclaimer appears in the end credits affirming that some events were dramatised in production. The streamer has agreed to move this statement to the beginning of each episode. 

The new disclaimer, to be clearly displayed at the beginning of each episode, reads: “While the motion picture is inspired by actual events and persons, certain characters, incidents, locations, dialogue, and names are fictionalised for the purposes of dramatisation.”

In her lawsuit, initially filed in 2020, Farstein alleged that When They See Us presented her in a “false and defamatory manner in nearly every scene” and erroneously presented a “racist, unethical villain”.

In response to the suit, DuVernay countered that Fairstein was responsible for the wrongful convictions but ultimately agreed to settle out of court. “Linda Fairstein decided that she was not willing to face a jury of her peers,” she stated. “As the head of the Manhattan Sex Crimes unit, Linda Fairstein was in the precinct for over 35 hours straight while the boys were interrogated as adults, often without parents present.”

Farstein stated that the lawsuit was simply about “setting the historical record straight.” She noted that the “villainous caricature invented by the defendants and portrayed on screen was not” her. Farstein hopes that the donation to the Innocence Project will show her true colours.