A federal judge upheld Ken Burns blocked footage he shot in his documentary about five men exonerated in a rape case from 1989. According to Yahoo Movies on Feb. 19, the footage Burns shot from the case, known as the "Central Park Five," is protected because of Burns' journalistic endeavors.
New York City filed a motion against Burns, demanding he turn over his footage, including outtakes, from his documentary. The city said journalistic privileges do not apply to Burns because he created a film that is a "one-sided advocacy piece" that only takes into account the formerly accused men's version of the events.
The five men have sued New York City for $250 million after their sentence was overturned. The original case involved the rape and murder of a 28-year-old investment banker in 1989. The five men were jailed for the crime, but later another man confessed to the crime. DNA evidence supported the claims that he was the guilty man and the five found guilty of the crime were innocent.
Ken Burns blocked footage is what convinced the documentary filmmaker that the city needed to do something to settle with the plaintiffs because the entire incident was a "painful chapter" in the "life of the city." He said that just because he found the footage to veer in the direction of the plaintiffs in the case, that does not mean he does not possess journalistic integrity in the film.
New York City lawyers said they are disappointed in the decision and are "reviewing our options."
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Shawn S. Lealos is a member of the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle, the professional film critics’ organization of Oklahoma. He is also working on a book about the Stephen King dollar babies called “Dollar Deal.” To read more of his writing, visit shawnlealos.net.