Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and his daughter, who jointly produced "The Central Park Five," have earned the right to keep unused footage for the film. The footage was being sought after by the city in connection to a $250 million lawsuit.
Manhattan Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis ruled on Tuesday that the footage obtained during the research process of the documentary was protected by "reporter's privilege."
"The Central Park Five" documentary film is based on the1989 rape and assault case of Trisha Meili. Five men were charged and convicted in the case, four black and one Hispanic, but found innocent in 2002 after another man, Matias Reyes, confessed to the crime; DNA evidence proved Reyes' claim. The defendants and their families later filed a $250 million lawsuit against the city for wrongful conviction.
After "The Central Park Five" debuted last year- decidedly in favor of the defendants, according to some- the city filed a subpoena arguing for rights to all of the footage that Ken Burns, his daughter Sarah Burns, and a third producer David McMahon, had obtained for the documentary. The city hoped that obtaining the footage would help to end the lawsuit.
The judge resolved, however, that the city had failed to offer sufficient reason to justify a disregard for the "precious rights of freedom of speech and the press," according to a Wall Street Journal report.
He also added that Florentine Films had "established its independence in the making of the film," therefore earning its right to journalistic privilege.
"While journalistic privilege under the law is very important, we firmly believe it did not apply here," City attorney Celeste Koeleveld rebutted in a statement. "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."