Prosecutors Try to Turn Tables on Student Journalists

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brian
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Joined: Tue Jul 14, 2009 10:52 am

Prosecutors Try to Turn Tables on Student Journalists

Post by brian » Sun Oct 25, 2009 9:29 am

Prosecutors Turn Tables on Student Journalists
New York Times, Monica Davey, Oct 25, 2009
EVANSTON, Ill. — For more than a decade, classes of students at Northwestern University’s journalism school have been scrutinizing the work of prosecutors and the police. The investigations into old crimes, as part of the Medill Innocence Project, have helped lead to the release of 11 inmates, the project’s director says, and an Illinois governor once cited those wrongful convictions as he announced he was commuting the sentences of everyone on death row.
But as the Medill Innocence Project is raising concerns about another case, that of a man convicted in a murder 31 years ago, a hearing has been scheduled next month in Cook County Circuit Court on an unusual request: Local prosecutors have subpoenaed the grades, grading criteria, class syllabus, expense reports and e-mail messages of the journalism students themselves.
“Every time the government starts attacking the messenger as opposed to the message, it can have a chilling effect,” said Barry C. Scheck, a pioneer of the Innocence Project in New York, who said he had never seen a similar demand from prosecutors.
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COMMENT: Please also see our forum topic If YOU or someone you know has been involved in an accident. In it we mention that a pre-trial Innocence Project should be created to assist defendants in preparing for trial. Current Innoncence Projects investigate after there has been a conviction and incarceration. Why not also consider assisting public defenders and attorneys for defendants before the trial. Most, if not all, individuals do not have the resources and/or budget of County Prosecutors offices. To insure a fair trial and insure that truth and justice are served in the trial, some form of an independent objective group should assist in the examination of the evidence and expert opinions pre-trial.
Why? Because in some instances, Prosecutors do everything in their power to try to get a conviction, even if the evidence doesn't support a conviction. For example see our thread Validation of Occupant Simulation for one such example. It refers to the Washington v Sipin case. We have several other examples and may publish a detailed thread on example cases in the near future.
The vast majority of Prosecutors offices and police departments perform objective and conscientious jobs seeking truth and jutice. However there are instances where that is not the case. Some form of 'pre-trial' review board needs to be set up to reel in those Prosecutors and police who run afoul of objectively seeking truth and justice.
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brian
Posts: 505
Joined: Tue Jul 14, 2009 10:52 am

Re: Prosecutors Try to Turn Tables on Student Journalists

Post by brian » Mon Oct 26, 2009 1:34 pm

The following are some recent North Carolina examples where prosecutors didn't play fair with evidence:
In 2004 the North Carolina legislature mandated an open-file discovery system after public outcry over the wrongful conviction and death sentence of Alan Gell. On appeal, Gell's conviction was overturned because of exculpatory evidence that had been withheld; in a 2004 retrial he was acquitted.
The state legislature's action helped expose misconduct in the infamous Duke University rape case in 2007. Durham County District Attorney Michael Nifong's mishandling of the prosecution of lacrosse team members who had been falsely accused led to his disbarment and subsequent personal bankruptcy. Nifong was accused of hiding exculpatory evidence.
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brian
Posts: 505
Joined: Tue Jul 14, 2009 10:52 am

Re: Prosecutors Try to Turn Tables on Student Journalists

Post by brian » Tue Nov 10, 2009 11:01 pm

A follow-up story on the main topic of this thread:Prosecutors claim students paid 2 witnesses
In an AP report by KAREN HAWKINS on Nov 10, 2009 it was reported that prosecutors claimed in court Tuesday that Northwestern University journalism students had paid two witnesses in order to make their case. The accusations shed light on why prosecutors subpoenaed student grades, e-mail messages and records. The judge did not yet rule on whether the university would have to turn over the requested documents. Allegations came in filings during a criminal court hearing seeking a new trial for Anthony McKinney. McKinney is serving a life sentence for the 1978 murder of a security guard. Students presented evidence including interviews with witnesses which suggested that other men committed the crime. Prosecutors are questioning the credibility of the witnesses. Two of the witnesses say the students and a Northwestern private investigator gave them money in exchange for interviews. The students and their professor David Protess denied the allegations Tuesday. Northwestern has until Jan. 11 to respond to the state's filing.
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Also covered Nov 11, 2009 in the New York Times Prosecutors Say Students Paid Witness to Aid Case
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brian
Posts: 505
Joined: Tue Jul 14, 2009 10:52 am

Re: Prosecutors Try to Turn Tables on Student Journalists

Post by brian » Mon Nov 16, 2009 11:18 pm

Nov 16, 2009: New York Times, David Carr: Another story related to the implications of the hearings in the McKinney wrongful conviction issue which involve the Northwestern University Medill Innocence Project. The article is titled: Taking Aim at Student Muckrackers
The subpeonas may put students to the test: Go to jail to protect sources and notes? Or cough them up? What a wonderful way to introduce students to the possible perils of investigative journalism and to perhaps put a damper on future investigative work. Legal costs alone might bankrput the Medill Innocence Project as well as individual students (who'll pay legal costs?) and scare future students from the participating in the Medill Innocence Project.
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brian
Posts: 505
Joined: Tue Jul 14, 2009 10:52 am

Re: Prosecutors Try to Turn Tables on Student Journalists

Post by brian » Wed Nov 17, 2010 7:46 pm

Nov 17, 2010: In a continuation of the story of Prosecutors trying to turn tables on Sudent Journalists:
Prosecutors: NU students wore hidden wires
Student journalists for Northwestern University's Medill Innocence Project wore hidden recorders to secretly tape their interviews with witnesses as part of their investigation into an alleged wrongful conviction in the murder of a Harvey security guard, prosecutors told a Cook County judge today.
A copy of one of the recorded conversations, as well as student memoranda that referenced the use of eavesdropping devices, were contained in about 800 pages of documents recently turned over to prosecutors by the university and a private detective who works for the Innocence Project.
See the full article: Prosecutors: NU students wore hidden wires
  • The case stems from an investigation by Protess and his journalism students that they say exonerated Anthony McKinney as the killer of a Harvey security guard in 1978 and implicated someone else. The students shared their findings with Northwestern's Center on Wrongful Convictions, and in 2006 attorneys from the center asked the state's attorney's office to examine the evidence.
    Prosecutors found the evidence unconvincing. But when McKinney's attorneys sought to overturn his conviction in 2008, the state's attorney sparked a controversy by subpoenaing the students' grades as well as their notes, memos and recordings of witness interviews.
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