New York City lawyers were rebuffed in their efforts to subpoena outtakes from the documentary filmmaker Ken Burns’ movie about the five men who were convicted and later exonerated in the racially charged 1989 Central Park jogger rape case, reports the New York Times. A federal lawsuit brought by the men has been pending for 10 years. City lawyers subpoenaed notes and outtakes from the film, “The Central Park Five,” which was released last year and included extensive interviews with the men.
Burns fought the subpoena, describing it as an assault on journalism that would have a chilling effect on reporting of sensitive cases. City lawyers argued that Burns had veered from journalism into advocacy on behalf of the five, in part because he had publicly said he hoped the film would encourage the city to finally settle the case. Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis said that having a point of view did not necessarily preclude the protections against subpoenas generally granted to journalists. “Indeed, it seems likely that a filmmaker would have a point of view going into a project,” he wrote.