Documentarian Ken Burns calls subpoena in Central Park Jogger case a "fishing expedition"

The five teen convicted - and later exonerated - for the 1989 rape and beating of a jogger in New York's Central Park
CBS This Morning

(CBS) NEW YORK - Award-winning documentarian Ken Burns told CBS This Morning on Monday that he is fighting a subpoena from the city of New York because he doesn't want to be part of a "fishing expedition" in connection to the so-called Central Park Jogger case

Burns received the subpoena on Sept. 12 asking for notes and footage collected for his new documentary film, "The Central Park Five." For nearly 10 years, the city has been fighting a lawsuit brought by the five young men who were wrongfully convicted in the notorious 1989 case.

"After 13 years of justice denied - which everyone agrees on - there's suddenly now justice delayed, which we know is just justice denied," Burns told Gayle King and Charlie Rose on Monday.

"We don't want to be part of the city's fishing expedition," he said.

Burns' documentary, which he collaborated on with his daughter Sarah Burns, author of "The Central Park Five: A Chronicle of a City Wilding," tells the story of a case that represents a dark time for the city.

On the morning of April 23, 1989, New Yorkers woke to the news that a 28-year-old investment banker had been brutally raped and beaten to within an inch of her life while jogging through Manhattan's Central Park.

They also learned that police had five young black suspects in custody, ranging in age from 14 to 17, and that the boys had reportedly confessed to the crime. Though they recanted almost immediately, and no trace of the bloody crime scene was found on any of them, the confessions, elicited after long hours of police interrogations, were enough.

The next year, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam and Kharey Wise were all tried, convicted, and sentenced to between five and 15 years in prison.

But, it turns out, they didn't do it. Twelve years later, a DNA match revealed that a convicted sex offender named Matias Reyes had actually committed the assault.

In 2002, the "Central Park Five," as they'd come to be called, had their convictions vacated and were released from prison - with none of the fanfare of their initial arrest. And despite a report by then-district attorney Robert Morgenthau which cleared the boys, many involved in the case continued to believe they had something to do with the crime.

In 2003, all five sued the city of New York for $50 million each, alleging malicious prosecution and civil rights violations, according to American Lawyer magazine.

Best known for his documentaries on baseball and the Civil War, Burns calls the movie "probably the straightest and most journalistic film we've ever made" and is fighting the subpoena based on the state and federal journalist shield laws.

"The Central Park Five" will be in theaters on Nov. 23, and will air on PBS next year.

  • Julia Dahl

    Julia Dahl writes about crime and justice for