On September 17, 2013, The Constitution Project celebrated Constitution Day by presenting its annual Constitutional Commentary Award to the acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns and his colleagues, Sarah Burns and David McMahon, for their documentary, THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE. The movie tells the harrowing story of five teenagers from Harlem who were wrongly convicted of an infamous rape in New York City’s Central Park in 1989, in large part based on false confessions. Conservative columnist George Will called the film “a meticulous narrative of a gross miscarriage of justice.” TCP presents the award annually to the author or producer of an outstanding work that has improved the quality of public discourse through insightful, articulate analysis of a contemporary constitutional issue.
The event also featured panel discussion, moderated by NPR’s Carrie Johnson, focusing on false confessions. Mr. Burns was joined by Professor Saul Kassin, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Shawn Armbrust, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project; and James Trainum, Retired Detective, Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia. The panelists discussed the phenomenon of innocent people confessing to crimes they did not commit and the institutional policies that can be adopted by law enforcement agencies to help address the problem. The entire event, which was streamed live to universities across the country, is now available on our digital media page.