Five teenagers who served prison time for the alleged rape of the “Central Park Jogger” have sued New York City and others for their wrongful conviction. Today, Magistrate Judge Ellis quashed the defendants’ subpoena for un-aired portions of a documentary about the plaintiffs’ story called The Central Park Five. Judge Ellis concluded the filmmakers were protected under the journalist’s privilege, despite the City’s argument that the filmmakers were more advocates than journalists:
[Defendants] assert that the Film’s filmmakers have: (1) had a “longstanding sympathetic relationship” with Plaintiffs; (2) made certain public statements that reveal their intentions in making the Film and call for Defendants to settle this civil litigation; (3) gathered interviews from Plaintiffs about the case well before they intended to publicly disseminate information relating to this case; and (4) received assistance from Plaintiffs’ counsel in creating both the book and the Film about the case . . . . [C]onsistency of point of view does not show a lack of independence where, for example, a filmmaker has editorial and financial independence over the newsgathering process. Indeed, it seems likely that a filmmaker would have a point of view going into a project. Thus, even assuming that the relationship Defendants cite between the filmmakers and Plaintiffs somehow demonstrates that the filmmakers had a point of view in favor of the Plaintiffs’ case before producing the Film, this fact, standing alone, does not resolve the question of whether the actual newsgathering process in the making of the Film remained independent.