Ken Burns’s latest documentary, which opens in theaters next month, focuses on one of the most notorious crimes in the city’s history: the 1989 rape of a woman jogging in Central Park and the subsequent conviction of five black and Hispanic teenagers. The young men were released after serial rapist Matias Reyes confessed, and nine years ago they filed a $50 million federal lawsuit against the city. Burns tells the New York Times that officials declined numerous requests to participate in The Central Park Five, but now that the documentary is complete, they’ve subpoenaed notes and unused footage from the film in the hope that it can bolster the city’s case.
The young men said they were coerced into making false confessions, and must prove in the suit that officials were guilty of misconduct. Burns conducted lengthy interviews with the five men, and Celeste Koeleveld, a lawyer for the city, says the footage could be crucial to the case.
Burns, who’s been pushing for the city to settle the case, responded, “There is a great deal of disappointment that it came to this, given the fact that we had given so many of the factions in this complicated story many, many opportunities, on a regular basis, to comment.”
Update: In a statement, Celeste Koeleveld, of the New York City Law Department, said: “The movie has crossed from documentary to pure advocacy. Under such circumstances, no reasonable person could have expected us to participate in their project.”