New Critics Choice Award for best limited series and best actor winner, "When They See Us," has litigation pending on grounds they make the controversial Reid Technique look bad
By Susanna Speier
Denver Private Investigator Blogger
Last night's Critics Choice Award for Limited Series went to Ava DuVernay for Netflix's "When They See Us" and Jharrel Jerome won for best actor in a limited series. The four episode, nonfiction drama chronicling the story of the five, innocent, young men who were falsely accused and imprisoned for a crime they didn't commit. Now the producers might be entering a different courtroom. One that is not being used as a film set.
See also: Why Innocent People Make False Confessions
The John E. Reid & Associates' pending litigation accuses Netflix and DuVernay of misrepresenting the Reid Technique. The Reid Technique is a sequence of interviews designed to elicit truth telling and factual analysis. "This procedure, termed a Behavior Analysis Interview, has become a standard investigative technique, especially since the passage of the Federal Employee Polygraph Act of 1988, which greatly restricts a private employer's use of polygraph," explains the firm's website.
The legal complaint document, which can be viewed here, claims defamation on grounds that the Reid technique does "not involve and prohibits striking or assaulting a subject, making any promises of leniency, denying a subject any rights, conducting excessively long interrogations and denying a subject any physical needs."
After learning of the firm's pending litigation against Netflix, long-time Colorado private investigator and former police detective and defense investigator, Ellis Armistead said that the Reid Technique is something that starts, "very benign and they (the investigators) say ‘you can go anytime you want.'”
As the interview progresses, things change. "If you look at some of these innocence cases and exoneration cases these people have been interviewed 11 hours with no sleep and no bathroom breaks. Plain rooms, no pictures no calendars no clocks."
Armistead was taught the Reid Technique in the 1970s. "It was then "the gold standard" of interview and interrogation methods." I show Armistead clips for the film set of the 1980s interrogation scenes which resonate with what he remembers. "We had rooms like that. We probably still do. It’s just dealing with this person one on one. If they were stone walling then you don’t get them food but the basic is you try and keep them on edge and uncertain" he recalls adding that he considers it to be potent yet dangerous tool used often by law enforcement.
"Sure, it produced results, but if you look at the infamous wrongful conviction, false confession, and exoneration cases, the Reid Technique was probably used in eliciting a confession." Ultimately he feels there are better methods.
Governments, national and international military and security professionals use the Reid technique. The company also trains businesses in the behavioral psychology based technique that "Reid claims—correctly—to be the leading trainer of police interrogation techniques in the country," according to Nancy Gertner and Dean A Strang's story in Law.com a section of the New York Law Journal.
Their story also points outs that although John E. Reid & Associates still denies fault in, what is widely known as the "Central Park Jogger Case," lead to all five of the accused being exonerated due to DNA evidence. The falsely accused, widely known as the "Central Park Five" went on to win a settlement against New York City and a portion of that settlement ended up in Colorado thanks to Korey Wise's generation donation to the CU School of Law Innocence Project.
Korey Wise, who barely survived the adult prison system and whose story is most gut wrenching of the series, was convicted on December 11, 1990. He wasn't exonerated until December 19, 2002.
Jharrel Jerome who portrayed Wise in the series took home a Best Actor in a Limited Series award from the Critics Choice. Director Ava DuVernay has also been nominated for a Directors Guild of America award.
Ted Johnson's Deadline article quotes Netflix and Ava DuVernay as saying that defamation lawsuit filed over the series should be dismissed as it is an attempt to stifle speech in the debate over police interrogation techniques.
See also: The Colorado Connection to Ava DuVernay's When They See Us
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