By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK, Nov 21 (Reuters) - A coalition of news
organizations filed an amicus brief on Wednesday opposing a
request from New York City for unreleased outtakes of a new
documentary about the infamous 1989 Central Park jogger rape
The movie by filmmaker Ken Burns, "Central Park Five,"
documents the lives of the five teenagers who were imprisoned
for the attack but later had their convictions overturned after
another man confessed to the crime.
The city, which is defending against a $250 million civil
case brought by the five nearly 10 years ago, issued a subpoena
in September for interview footage from the film that did not
make the final cut, arguing it could prove relevant to its
Burns and his production company, Florentine Films, have
filed a motion to quash the subpoena on the grounds that the
material is protected by New York's journalist shield law, since
his film is a documentary that seeks to disseminate information
to the public.
On Wednesday, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the
Press, the Associated Press, Dow Jones & Co, Gannett Co and The
New York Times filed an amicus brief in support of Burns's
motion to quash.
"The City disregards the important principle that
journalists must be free to work independently of the judicial
process, ignores the public interest in a reporter's right to
keep information confidential, and dismisses the very real
chilling effect that a decision like this will have on the
public's receipt of information on important controversies," the
The brief also asserts that the city's request amounts to a
The city's law department claims Burns's film should not be
afforded the protection of the shield law because it crossed the
line from journalism to advocacy and because the information is
not obtainable elsewhere. In a letter to the film company in
October, city lawyers said one of Burns's co-directors, his
daughter Sarah, worked for one of the plaintiffs' law firms from
2004 to 2006 and has called on the city to settle the case.
A second set of amici, including a number of film
associations, has also filed a similar brief in support of the
motion to quash.
The five teenagers confessed to beating and raping a
28-year-old female jogger in Central Park in April 1989. They
recanted but were convicted based on the confessions.
In 2002, serial rapist Matias Reyes confessed to the crime,
and DNA testing confirmed that he had raped the woman. The five
then sued the city, claiming their confessions were coerced.
The documentary opens in a handful of New York theaters this
The case is In re McRay, Richardson, Santana, Wise and
Salaam Litigation, U.S. District Court for the Southern District
of New York, No. 03-cv-09974.
For the plaintiffs: Myron Beldock, Karen Dippold, Jonathan
Moore and Joshua Moskovitz of Beldock Levine & Hoffman; Jane
Byrialsen, David Fisher, David Kreizer and Alissa Boshnak of
Fisher, Byrialsen & Kreizer; Michael and Evelyn Warren; Roger
For the city: Elizabeth Daitz, Philip DePaul, Elizabeth
Dollin and Andrew Myerberg of the New York City Law Department.
For Florentine Films: John Siegal of Baker Hostetler. For
the news groups: Elizabeth McNamara of Davis Wright Tremaine.
For the film groups: Andrew Celli and Julia Fong Sheketoff of
Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady; Michael Donaldson of Donaldson
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