Fairstein claims she was depicted in a false light throughout the four-part series.
The Central Park Five case was depicted in the four-part project. Fairstein a former prosecutor who ran the sex crimes unit in Manhattan’s district attorney’s office in 1989 was played by Felicity Huffman.
According to a TMZ report Fairstein filed the federal suit on Wednesday. She claims she issued a warning to DuVernay before the project was released in June 2019. Fairstein also said that she was initially concerned that she’d be portrayed in a “false and defamatory manner.” DuVernay reportedly responded to this by claiming Fairstein had no right to assume anything prior to watching When They See Us.
After it aired Fairstein said every episode she was a part of featured her as a “racist, unethical villain who is determined to jail innocent children of color at any cost.” In a op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal, she also wrote “Ms. DuVernay’s film attempts to portray me as an overzealous prosecutor and a bigot, the police as incompetent or worse, and the five suspects as innocent of all charges against them.”
The suit which was obtained by TMZ includes Fairstein objecting significant points of the Central Park Five case which were featured in the series. She alleges she didn’t participate in the following: “unlawfully interrogating unaccompanied minors, calling for a roundup of ‘young black’ thugs, manipulating the timeline to pin the jogger’s rape on the Central Park 5, referring to people of color as animals, directing NYPD detectives to coerce confessions, and suppressing DNA evidence.”
The former prosecutor is suing Netflix, DuVernay and co-writer Attica Locke for defamation. She is requesting damages, a public apology, the removal of scenes she alleges are false, and for a disclaimer to be added making it clear the series is a dramatization.
A Netflix representative released the following statement after the lawsuit was publicly announced: “Linda Fairstein’s frivolous lawsuit is without merit. We intend to vigorously defend When They See Us and Ava DuVernay and Attica Locke, the incredible team behind the series”
Robyn Mowatt is a staff writer at Okayplayer where she covers culture, music, and fashion. You can see what's on her mind @robyn_mowatt.