News 10.21.09

Journalism Program in Standoff with Prosecutors

An investigative journalism class in Illinois is in a standoff with prosecutors after the state requested student records such as grades, notes and emails.

Students at the Medill Innocence Project at Northwestern University have worked for three years on the case of a south suburban Chicago man who has spent 31 years in prison for a crime he says didn’t commit. Their work has uncovered new evidence of his innocence, which will be presented at an upcoming hearing.

In advance of the hearing, Cook County prosecutors have requested that the Medill project turn over student records, the Chicago Tribune reported this week. Professor David Protess said his group has shared case-related information with prosecutors, but the school is refusing to hand over unrelated materials.

"I don't think it's any of the state's business to know the state of mind of my students," Protess said. "Prosecutors should be more concerned with the wrongful conviction of Anthony McKinney than with my students' grades."


Read the Chicago Tribune story here

. (10/19/09)

The Tribune followed its original story with

another yesterday

including reactions from the prosecutor who requested student records.

"All information is relevant," (Prosecutor Anita Alvarez) told reporters Monday. "There are more notes that have not been turned over. We want to make sure cases are secure and that we don't have the wrong person convicted."

The case has sparked a storm of media coverage and commentary this week from across the country (and

across the twittersphere

).

One blogger at National Review (and Medill alum)

questioned

whether Medill students are protected by Illinois’ shield law for journalists, and a commenter (another Medill alum)

defended the project

.

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