Judge denies New York City’s request for outtakes from Ken Burns’s Central Park Five

By Andrew Lapin

More than five months after subpoenaing notes and outtakes from The Central Park Five, a crime documentary about the 1989 arrest and conviction of five innocent young men over the rape and assault of a jogger in Central Park, lawyers for New York City were rebuffed in their attempts to gain hold of the film’s unused footage for evidence in an ongoing federal lawsuit. The decision came on the evening of Feb. 19, as reported by the New York Times.

Co-directed by Ken Burns, his daughter Sarah and longtime Burns producer David McMahon, based on extensive research from Sarah, the film was released in theaters in fall 2012 to critical acclaim and will air on PBS in April. The city had accused the filmmakers of biased reporting when it filed the Sept. 12, 2012 subpoena, arguing that the footage should be overturned because the documentary was not a work of objective journalism. The city is currently facing a $50 million federal lawsuit filed in 2002 by the men who had been convicted.

The judge found that the filmmakers had remained sufficiently independent during their reporting process, and criticized city lawyers for attempting to paint the Burnses in a bad light. Ken Burns, for his part, “jumped up and down” when he heard the decision, according to the Times.

In Current‘s earlier story on The Central Park Five, McMahon said, “The biggest impact of the subpoena is the amount of attention that it’s drawn to the Five.”

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