Central Park Jogger Case Prosecutor’s Libel Lawsuit Against Netflix (Over “When They See Us”) Can Go Forward as to Some Claims
From yesterday’s Fairstein v. Netflix, Inc., decided by Judge Kevin Castel (S.D.N.Y.):
On the night of April 19, 1989, a young woman was viciously beaten and raped in Central Park. Five young men of color (the “Five”), ranging in age from 14 to 16, were arrested, tried and convicted for the attack. They were exonerated in 2002, after the confession of a man whose DNA matched a sample found near the victim. The case, which is known among the press and public as the “Central Park Jogger” or “Central Park Five” case, drew intense public interest in the immediate aftermath of the attack and remains the subject of scrutiny and debate.
Plaintiff Linda Fairstein was chief of the Sex Crimes Prosecutions Unit in the District Attorney’s office of New York County during the investigation and prosecution of the Five. According to her Complaint, Fairstein had supervisory authority over the case but was not one of the prosecution’s trial attorneys. After a successful and high-profile legal career, Fairstein remained in the public eye as a prolific mystery writer and public speaker. In the years following the exoneration of the Five, Fairstein made public statements that defended the work of police and prosecutors on the case, and she has publicly argued that the Five were hastily exonerated.
In May 2019, the popular streaming service owned by defendant Netflix, Inc. … released a four-part dramatization of the arrest and prosecution of the Five, called “When They See Us.” Produced by Oprah Winfrey, the limited series features high production values that have become standard in subscription television, including a cast of famous actors, a soundtrack of popular music, and atmospheric, hallucinatory sequences intended to reflect the characters’ psychological states.
“When They See Us” is also openly sympathetic to the Five. In early scenes, it depicts the Five as typical teenagers negotiating the challenges of school, family and social life before they are incorrectly and unjustly suspected of rape. The series then fo
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