A federal judge blocked New York City from getting documentary footage gathered by filmmaker Ken Burns and others about the five men exonerated in the Central Park jogger case, according to a Feb. 19 Associated Press report.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis said that the city had failed to demonstrate a compelling enough concern to outweigh the “precious rights of freedom of speech and the press” in its request for footage and other materials used to make “The Central Park Five” film.
The city’s request was connected to a $250 million federal lawsuit filed by the men against the city nine years ago after their sentences were vacated. The men were exonerated after another individual confessed and DNA evidence supported their claims that they did not beat and rape the victim in the case.
The court rejected arguments by the city that filmmakers Ken Burns, David McMahon and Sarah Burns were not independent journalists entitled to first amendment privileges. City attorney Celeste Koeleveld said city lawyers were “disappointed and reviewing [their] options.”
“While journalistic privilege under the law is very important, we firmly believe it did not apply here. This film is a one-sided advocacy piece that depicts the plaintiffs' version of events as undisputed fact. It is our view that we should be able to view the complete interviews, not just those portions that the filmmakers chose to include,” the lawyer said in a statement.
Burns for his part, said that he and his co-filmmakers are “grateful for this important decision.” He noted that “This adds a layer of important protection to journalists and filmmakers everywhere.”
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