In an opinion yesterday, Judge Castel denied a summary judgment motion that sought to dismiss the defamation action brought by former prosecutor Linda Fairstein against Netflix and others over a “docudrama” called “When They See Us” about the Central Park Five. Our coverage of the denial of the motion to dismiss is here.
Judge Castel recognized that the makers of films and television shows dramatizing real events have some license to advance an “opinion-based version of events, provided that the account has some support in the historical record.” He also noted that, while docudramas will often use “composite” characters, “Fairstein does not complain that she was defamed through the use of a fictionalized composite character. Her claims are directed to words and deeds attributed to her by name.”
The decision details why a jury could find that five particular scenes were capable of defamatory meaning and were made with “actual malice.”
In the first example, Fairstein is depicted as creating a timeline of the underlying attack, and then manipulating it to fit a predetermined conclusion that the “Central Park Five” were guilty: