Siegal and Shapiro assert that Florentine Films "undertook, researched and produced The Central Park Five independently without financial or editorial control or input by the plaintiffs or their attorneys" (NYLJ, Nov. 9).
The city, in the papers filed last week with Judge Deborah Batts and Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis, begins by saying that New York's Shield Law, N.Y. Civ. Rights Law §79-(h), doesn't apply to federal civil rights legislation and that "even if the court were to find that the federal qualified journalists' privilege does apply to these non-confidential materials, defendants meet the low burden required for their production."
First of all, they state, the information the city seeks is not confidential, so the stronger level of privilege does not apply.
"Clearly, the identities of the interviewees are all known," they state. "Indeed, all of the plaintiffs have publicly aligned themselves with the production and promotion of The Central Park Five."
Moreover, the city argues that the information is necessary for the litigation, and it cannot be obtained from any other source, canceling the privilege.
The lawyers also say "credibility is of the utmost significance in this case."
"Ultimately, a jury will be asked to determine if plaintiffs' sworn testimony about the events of April 19, 1989, and the investigation and arrests that followed, is true," the lawyers state. "The edited portions of the film alone demonstrate that the interviews are also highly relevant to plaintiffs' credibility because those portions conflict with sworn testimony given in both the criminal case and in hearings."
Therefore, it is wrong for the plaintiffs to argue, the Law Department says, that the city's lawyers are on a "'fishing expedition' to develop impeachment for depositions yet to be taken."
And because the plaintiffs claim their confessions were coerced, "complete footage of the interviews should be available to any expert witnesses so that they can conduct thorough forensic evaluations of the plaintiffs," the city argues.
The film also contains interviews with current and former defense counsel for the plaintiffs, and the city says the outtakes are needed to determine whether there has been any waiver of the attorney-client or attorney work-product privileges.