Ex-Prosecutor Sues Ava DuVernay and Netflix Over Portrayal in 'When They See Us'
Photo Credit: Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Netflix

Ex-Prosecutor Sues Ava DuVernay and Netflix Over Portrayal in 'When They See Us'

Netflix and Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us” miniseries has had a major impact on our social atmosphere and altered the way society as a whole views our criminal justice system. However, for others, its impact included calling their careers and credibility into question. One of whom happened to be Linda Fairstein, the former prosecutor responsible for the convictions of the Exonerated Five. Fairstein is now taking legal action against Netflix and Ava DuVernay after making claims that the miniseries “defamed” her.

Released in May 2019, the four-part miniseries chronicled the true events of the arrests, trials, convictions, and exonerations of five teenagers of color — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise — who became known as the Exonerated Five.

In the miniseries, Fairstein was portrayed as a power-hungry prosecutor directing officers to coerce false confessions out of the five then-teenagers, while detectives held them in questioning for over 30 hours without parental supervision. After forcing their convictions, evidence later proved their innocence leading to the five men’s exoneration.

The ex-prosecutor filed a formal lawsuit against the streaming giant and director for allegedly portraying her as a “racist, unethical villain who is determined to jail innocent children of color at any cost.”

In documents obtained by TMZ, Fairstein also denies illegally interrogating the unaccompanied minors, suppressing DNA evidence among other aspects depicted in the series.

Fairstein claims that her career as a crime author was destroyed following the release of the series, revealing that she was dropped by her publisher and agent and missed out on future speaking engagements.

Fairstein is suing both DuVernay and her co-writer, Attica Locke, for defamation. Her hopes for this lawsuit include getting DuVernay to remove any scenes she takes issue with and having the series billed as a “dramatization” versus a true story.

In a statement shared with Variety, the lawsuit states:

“Throughout the film series, Ms. Fairstein is portrayed as making statements that she never said, taking actions that she did not take — many of them racist and unethical, if not unlawful — in places that she never was on the days and times depicted. On a number of occasions, Ms. Fairstein is portrayed using inflammatory language, referring to young men of color as ‘thugs,’ ‘animals’ and ‘b*****ds,’ that she never used.”

A spokesperson for Netflix issued a statement to Entertainment Tonight saying they’re up for this battle in response to Fairstein’s lawsuit.

“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,” Netflix said.