Monday, October 19, 2009

Medill Students at Center of Cook County Prosecutor Flap

Monday, October 19, 2009

In 2003, students working with the Innocence Project at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism began investigating the case of Anthony McKinney, a man they believed wrongly convicted for a 1978 shooting death. By 2006, they had turned up enough evidence to successfully petition Cook County Circuit Court for a new hearing for McKinney.

But now the Cook County state's attorney's office wants more than what the students have turned over so far. They've subpoenaed students' grades, off-the-record notes, unpublished memos and even e-mails among themselves and the Innocence Project founder, Medill Professor David Protess. Protess says that it isn't "the state's business to know the state of mind" of his students, and says the office should be more concerned with the wrongful conviction.

However, the prosecutors claim that they need this information in order to determine witnesses' credibility and "other essential issues." They also argue that Protess and his students and not journalists and not protected by the Illinois Reporter's Privilege Act, which protects journalists' sources.

Medill dean John Lavine begs to differ: "They took reporting to the nth degree."

Read the whole story here.

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