Federal Judge Maintains Journalistic Protection for Ken Burns and ‘The Central Park Five’

Ken and Sarah Burns

The City of New York, and specifically the Bloomberg administration, continues to lose their case against Ken Burns and his film The Central Park Five, which he co-directed with daughter Sarah Burns and son-in-law David McMahon. While a U.S. magistrate judge already ruled in the filmmakers’ favor back in February regarding NYC’s attempted subpoena of outtake footage shot for the doc, another has maintained that decision of journalist protection on appeal this week.

According to Courthouse News Service, U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts wrote the following in response to the city’s argument that Sarah Burns is not protected under journalistic privilege because of her prior work as a paralegal for the firm representing the film’s subjects and because of her original research being while she was a college student:

Like Burns, many investigative journalists may have previous familiarity with a subject before beginning their work on a project. Courts would undermine the purpose of the reporter’s privilege and severely curtail its applicability if the standard hinged on whether the reporter had previously researched the subject of the subpoena for a high school or college paper, and whether she intended to disseminate information to the public at that early stage.

The city’s lawyers are now considering their options moving forward. Their interest in the footage is as evidence against the men known as “The Central Park Five” (Antron McRay, Raymond Santana Jr., Kharey Wise, Kevin Richardson and Yusef Salaam) who are suing New York for their wrongful convictions and incarceration in the infamous Central Park jogger rape case from 1989.

If you’re not familiar with the full story and haven’t yet seen the film, you can currently stream it on Amazon.

[h/t: Kartemquin Films]

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.