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Ken Burns Refuses to Hand Over 'Central Park Five' Research to City

November 12, 2012
Ken Burns Refuses to Hand Over 'Central Park Five' Research to City
Ken Burns Refuses to Hand Over 'Central Park Five' Research to City

Florentine Films is telling attorneys for New York City to take a hike on demands to access notes and outtakes from the acclaimed documentary film, The Central Park Five.

The City is in the midst of defending an eight-year-old $50 million lawsuit filed by the five men who were convicted, but later set free, on charges of perpetrating a 1989 rape of a jogger in Central Park. A subpoena request was filed by the City in hopes of gaining something that could boost its defense that authorities were relying on the best information available at the time.

But the filmmakers including Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon, are objecting to the City's demands, saying that officials were given opportunties to participate in the making of the film, and after denying interview requests, are now on a fishing expedition.

In a motion to quash subpoenas filed late last week, Florentine Films cites reporter's privilege and says that the City hasn't articulated a good reason why it needs footage.

According to the motion:

"Thus far, the City's rationale for the subpoena has amounted to nothing more than hope and speculation that the outtakes maky contain material useful to defendants. They have not limited the subpoena to any specific issue of likely relevance in this case. They have not made any showing that they have sought alternative sources of the information, for instance by deposing the plaintiffs first. And, they have not appropriately narrowed the outtakes they seek; they are requesting all recordings of everyone interviewed for the film who has any direct knowledge of the Central Park criminal case or this civil litigation."

John Siegel, the attorney at Baker & Hostetler representing the filmmakers, continues by saying that to defeat reporter's privilege under both state and federal law, the City must make a showing that the documents being sought are highly and critically relevant. He also aims to distinguish Florentine's motion to quash from filmmaker Joseph Berlinger's unsuccessful attempt two years ago to invoke journalistic privilege to prevent outtake footage from a prying litigant.

"Indeed, in its decision in Berlinger, the Second Circuit went out of its way to clearly instruct that its decision could not be applied to film makers like Florentine Films who utilize an independent journalistic process even if they reach a point-of-view about the story they are covering," says the motion.

The Central Park Five details the story of the five individuals charged with the infamous 1989 crime -- including how another man later confessed and provided exonerrating DNA. It is scheduled to be released in theaters on November 23.

Here's the full motion to quash the subpoena: