Prosecutors Subpoena Tons Of Info On Student Journalists Who Provided Information To Reopen Murder Case

from the chilling-effects dept

Northwestern University’s Medill Innocence Project is a very cool program for journalism students, teaching them investigative reporting techniques in the real world, by having them investigate potential wrongful convictions. As the program’s website notes, it’s helped free 11 wrongfully convicted individuals, five of whom had been on death row. However, some prosecutors don’t really like being proven incorrect. In one of its latest projects, the Innocence Project has provided enough evidence to reopen the case of Anthony McKinney, who has been in jail for 31 years for allegedly killing a security guard.

However, state’s attorneys in Illinois are now subpoenaing all sorts of excess information on the students themselves, including their grades, the grading criteria, student evaluations, and private notes and and off-the-record interviews that were used in gathering the information necessary for the case. While the state’s attorney Anita Alvarez is defending this overreaching subpoena effort, it has many concerned that this is really just an attempt to intimidate the students and create a serious chilling effect on this type of investigative research. It’s difficult to see how the student’s grades make any difference at all in whether or not McKinney is innocent or guilty.

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Comments on “Prosecutors Subpoena Tons Of Info On Student Journalists Who Provided Information To Reopen Murder Case”

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46 Comments
John Doe says:

Re: Re: Picking a fight with the press?

Another kool-aid drinker huh? The two programs Obama’s administration is pointing to as not news is, wait for it, not news. They are opinion programs just like many other channels have. someone needs to teach Obama the difference between news and op-ed pieces. Newspapers have had them for years and cable news has them now.

CastorTroy-Libertarian (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Picking a fight with the press?

Proof of the lies? i have seen more proof to NBC and the rest lying than Fox so far….

And i dont remember any of the others saying they lean in a direction…

I could care less about any of them by your hypocritic assumptions are amusing, in that fact you most likely believe them…

Anonymous Coward says:

US law as applied guilt or innocence after trial is irrelevant; all that is relevant is procedure. These students are destructive to closure therefore they are guilty of being an accessory after the fact even though the crime was committed before most of them were born. If you do not believe this then you need to have a long hard discussion with a prosecutor about innocent people being railroaded into a very long government paid vacation.

Anonymous Coward says:

US law as applied guilt or innocence after trial is irrelevant; all that is relevant is procedure. These students are destructive to closure therefore they are guilty of being an accessory after the fact even though the crime was committed before most of them were born. If you do not believe this then you need to have a long hard discussion with a prosecutor about innocent people being railroaded into a very long government paid vacation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Hey I just had that long hard talk with a prosecutor and he was able to confirm that you are indeed a troll. What these students are doing is basically research and it is completely legal and not “destructive to closure”, but what about the justice systems destruction of innocent lives? By your definition of accessory after the fact, every defense attorney would be guilty of being an accessory after the fact.

chris (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

What these students are doing is basically research and it is completely legal and not “destructive to closure”

if a closed case gets re-opened, it is no longer closed. the closure of that case is now destroyed. closure rates are a big deal for prosecutors. you can’t be a district attorney without a good closure rate.

these are lawyers with careers to think of. these “innocence pirates” are ruining the careers of innocent attorneys. won’t someone think of these poor defenseless attorneys?

Nobody says:

What difference do grades make?

I say, if they feel the students grades are relevant to the information, then the grades and academic notes for the lawyers and judge, as well as the jury, for the original case need to be reviewed as well.

After all, using whatever logic was applied to the subpoena(s), the same information for those parties responsible for the original verdict would have even more impact than that of these students.

If they want to ask for something stupid, let’s take it all the way!

Mike C. (profile) says:

Re: What difference do grades make?

While I completely disagree with the premise, the prosecutor is implying that the grades were dependent on a finding of potential innocence. Assuming she actually believes that drivel, you might be able to understand the thought process behind the subpoena.

That being said, I find it a sad testament to blame avoidance that the prosecutors would rather attack the students than attempt to verify their “evidence” with witness interviews of their own.

Free Capitalist (profile) says:

Just how guilty are the CC prosecutors?

I could not think of a better course of action the state attorney could have taken to create an appearance of judicial conspiracy in the original case.

If they had already conducted their own formal follow up investigation and found a need to look at the university’s program, then this subpoena would be so incriminating.

As it is, it makes one wonder if there really was misconduct on the part of the police and the prosecutors in the original case. It makes me wonder at the possibility of original conspirators being in even greater positions of power today and driving this charade.

Jake (user link) says:

Re: Just how guilty are the CC prosecutors?

The Tribune article claims the students have three men backing up McKinney’s alibi, the person whose testimony got him jailed claiming he perjured himself under duress and no fewer than seven eyewitness accounts of someone else taking credit for the killing, so I think we can safely say that there’s little doubt that ‘misconduct’ isn’t even close to an adequate term.

JustMe says:

the A/C in Post #2 (and 4)

A) I presume you are Ms. Alvarez. Welcome to the discussion.

2) I’m not really sure what you are saying there, your second point seems to be in contention with your first. However, as Nobody says in post #12, please cite provide citations.

III) You are incorrect. Procedural errors are only one part of the equation. New evidence is another part. I presume the students are looking at several factors, such as if the DA hid information or if the jury instructions were poor.
Since we asked you for citations here is one from me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overturned_convictions_in_the_United_States

Ib Forum (profile) says:

What, surprized are ya?

Stalin lives in the good old USA! Get used to it, you are not as free as you think and only stupid people think they are, by comparing us to some other less free country.
History classes in schools around this country fail to teach about committees of correspondence and safety in their various curriculum’s. We will need them back on the streets again m!

Michial Thompson (user link) says:

Grades are VERY Relevant

If they are going to re-open a case, the students grades are just as relevant as the officer’s performance reviews.

Prosecutors are charged with prosecuting crimes, and every aspect of the evidence being presented needs to be verified as credible. This extends to more than just verifying the credibility of the witness. They need to verify that every step of the investigation was carried out to the letter of the law to insure that it is not thrown out of court.

If a student is getting sub standard grades due to the fact that they shortcut investigations regularly then this needs to be known.

magnafides says:

Re: Grades are VERY Relevant

No, sorry, not even close to the same thing. An officer’s performance reviews are relevant because the officer testifies as an executor of the law, and their personal account of the situation is (more-or-less) accepted as fact. Students doing legal research are not fabricating information and asking the courts to accept it as truth; they’re pointing out facts that are easily verifiable.

Are you just here to be contrary?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Grades are VERY Relevant

I agree with you Michial.

And now that you bring it up, I really dislike David Schuster’s smug face, and think he’s up to something bad as well, just like these current Northwestern Students. Can we pull a copy of any surviving copies of his grades, grading criteria, student evaluations, private notes and off-the-record interviews too?

I just want to make sure it’s legit.

JackSombra (profile) says:

Re: Grades are VERY Relevant

If the students grades are relevant (not saying they are) then the orginal and current prosecutors, judges, witnesses and cops grades, grading criteria, student evaluations, and private notes and and off-the-record interviews are 10000 times more relevant as they were all part of the original case

So if i was the students i would just issue a counter subpoena

$10 the prosecutor drops their subpoena 10 mins after receiving the counter

Christopher says:

The prosecutor in this case

Needs to be investigated. I personally know how many times that an INNOCENT PERSON is accused or convicted of a crime after being accused of having raped little girls 5 times, and every single time only being saved when their brothers and sisters come out and say “She’s a liar!”
I am a pedosexual, that I will admit…… but in every single one of these cases, the parents should have KNOWN the girl was lying.
The sad thing…… the girls were usually having a consensual relationship with someone else, their parents were getting suspicious, and I was the nearest ‘fall guy’ who could take the blame.
I don’t even blame those little girls…. I blame our society for that.

Ben (profile) says:

I would firstly find this offensive, as stated why does this matter. Secondly, however, I would not be intimidated. I would have the state’s Attorney counter subpoena a list of all cases that resulted in a guilty verdict of all the Prosecution Attorneys. I could gain this by other means and still would but this puts up a fight. I would then take this list and begin investigating every one. Hopefully more errors would be uncovered but even if they weren’t it would be irrelevant. The fact that every case you were involved in was under investigation should be enough to shut them up. If they tried more lawsuits Im bulletproof. This is allowed. Just make sure I break no laws in the process.

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