Author: Shani Harris

Documentary film wins a journalistic shield

While a raft of New York police, prosecutors and other officials would love to get their hands on them, outtakes from a documentary by critically acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns, his daughter Sarah and their fellow producer David McMahon enjoy journalistic privilege and the materials from The Central Park Five  need not be given over, a federal judge has ruled, affirming an earlier magistrate’s recommendation. The Burns’ PBS-aired film chronicles the injustice carried out against five black and Latino teenagers who were coerced into wrongly admitting roles in the horrific and sensationalized ‘wilding’ rape of a woman jogger in Central Park in 1989. A decade later, after the five did jail time,  a serial rapist confessed to the jogger’s brutal assault and DNA evidence confirmed his guilt. The 13-year-old convictions in the case were vacated and the wronged juveniles, now grown men, sued New York City, its police, the District Attorney’s Office, various members of the two agencies’ leadership and numerous detectives and prosecutors. As part of the civil rights lawsuit, in which plaintiffs seek $20 million, defense attorneys sought by subpoena interviews from the documentary, including footage not shown in the completed and aired documentary by Florentine Films, the documentary-maker in which Burns is a founding producer. Florentine resisted the demand for its materials and earlier this year U.S. Magistrate Ronald Ellis recommended that the federal courts quash the...

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Rapper’s lyrics delivered with conviction

Rappers, beware! Many such performers glorify adultery, gang violence, drug abuse and other criminal behaviors. But their extreme language can have legal consequence: While rap lyrics typically are taken as anecdotal hyperbole from a, perhaps, utterly conjured thug life, the words also can’t absent themselves of real meaning, the justice system contends. And the Supreme Court of Nevada has underscored this, affirming felony convictions of rapper Deyundrea Holmes, aka “Khali.” He had appealed his conviction, asserting his trial was unfair because prosecutors got lyrics of a “gangsta” rap he wrote after his crime admitted into evidence, assisting in his first-degree murder and robbery conviction. Further, while jailed, the prolific and boastful rapper wrote another ditty that paralleled circumstances of the murder and robbery for which he was convicted. The court found unconvincing his contention that other rap tunes contained similar lyrics and that jurors might be prejudiced against him because of the bad reputation of gangsta rap. Caleb Mason, a Southwestern Law School professor who has penned a take-down of Jay Z’s evidentiary theories in 99 Problems, earlier has warned that provocative raps by superstars Chris Brown and Drake over a putative, lucrative and career-enhancing rivalry over the sultry Rihanna — which has led to fists and bottles flying in some hip-hop clubs — could prove legally problematic to the duo in...

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Entertainment Law Blogs

The Biederman Blog is now ranked NUMBER ONE on Feedspot's Top 20 Entertainment Law blogs (May 2018). It is very exciting to top this list. We are extra proud of number six - Entertainment Law Offices of Gordon P. Firemark. Mr. Firemark graduated from Southwestern in 1992, and is a top entertainment blogger and webinar presenter in addition to being a world class entertainment attorney!

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