*A federal judge has rejected efforts by the city of New York to subpoena outtakes from Ken Burns’s documentary, “The Central Park Five,” which describes how five teenagers – four African Americans, one Hispanic – were pressured to confess to the assault of a woman in Central Park in 1989 but were exonerated after serving lengthy sentences when the actual rapist confessed and DNA evidence supported his admission.
The five filed a lawsuit against the city that has been dragging through the courts for ten years. The city had asked for the outtakes and notes of interviews conducted with the five men, maintaining that the film did not fall under laws protecting the sources of journalists since it amounted to advocacy and not reporting.
But in his opinion, Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis wrote that having a point of view does not strip away the law’s protections. Indeed, it seems likely that a filmmaker would have a point of view going into a project, he wrote. The city’s lawyers themselves, he observed, would have ample opportunity to question the men during pretrial depositions.
In an interview with the New York Times, Burns said that he hoped that the resolution of the city’s lawsuit would now return the focus of the case to the claims against the city by the five men — something that haunted New York for far too long.
PBS will premiere “Central Park Five” on April 16, 2013. Watch the trailer below.