'Central Park Five' Filmmakers Win Against NYC Subpoena for Outtakes in Journalistic Privilege Ruling

by Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna
February 20, 2013 1:29 PM
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"Central Park Five" filmmakers Sarah and Ken Burns along with documentary subject Raymond Santana
The New York courts have ruled in favor of documentary filmmakers Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon and their film "The Central Park Five," after the city attempted to subpoena outtakes. The searing documentary examines the racially charged 1989 case of a Central Park jogger's rape and brutal assault.

Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise and Yusef Salaam, all juveniles at the time, were originally sentenced in the case, with convictions based almost solely on confessions following 16 hours of interrogation without legal representation. In 2002, convicted rapist and murderer Matias Reyes, serving time for other crimes, confessed that he had committed the assault. DNA evidence confirmed his confession.

The original five are now suing the city of New York for the case's mishandling and their 15 years spent in prison. In the face of the law suit, the city wanted all research gathered by the filmmakers.

But the court has found that documentarians qualify as journalists with the benefit of Journalistic Privilege, and that their right to "uncover new information, advocate action and initiate public debate where none has previously existed" is protected. Attorney Andrew Cielli and doc advocate Michael C. Donaldson filed an amicus brief on behalf of the documentary community, with support from the International Documentary Association, NAMAC and Film Independent.

Bravo to all for prevailing at a time when documentary journalism is filling a role that broadcast journalism is not.

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More: News, News, Documentary, The Central Park Five

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  • Michael Hsu | February 20, 2013 4:24 PMReply

    In awarding monetary damages to the 'Central Park Five', you'd have to take into consideration that their incarceration might have actually prolonged their lives - given the grim statistics about the lifespan of those of their skin colors, and how long they survive in urban areas.

  • John | February 20, 2013 10:34 PM

    That sounds speculative, no?

  • Brad | February 20, 2013 3:31 PMReply

    Is there an article somewhere that explains why they didn't want to hand over the footage?

  • Wow | February 20, 2013 3:07 PMReply

    @Molly, in case you aren't trolling but are just badly informed, have no desire to learn facts and just prefer to spout things you have no knowledge of. The five were wrongfully convicted based only on illegal interrogations (with no DNA match) and spent 15 years behind bars. The victim because of her injuries had no memories of the attack. In 2002, a convicted rapist claimed to have committed the crime alone and DNA confirmed he was involved in the rape.

  • Molly | February 20, 2013 2:45 PMReply

    Five fucking douchbags rape someone, get caught and try and sue the city because they are.... unpleased about going to prison and the handling? I say 15 years isn't enough.

  • Carlos | February 20, 2013 9:39 PM

    Just take a couple of hours and watch the movie. Then focus your rage where it belongs - The NYPD and the NYC prosecutors.

  • Steve | February 20, 2013 3:43 PM

    Please Molly. You apparently know nothing about the case and are reacting from your own internal fear and resentments toward 'others.' You may help yourself get through the rest of your life with a small willingness to broaden your views. Check in on the 'Memphis Three' and let us know what you think about that abuse of the justice system.

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