Monday, October 19, 2009

An Example of Prosecutorial Misconduct

After spending three years investigating the conviction of a Harvey man accused of killing a security guard with a shotgun blast in 1978, journalism students at Northwestern University say they have uncovered new evidence that proves his innocence.

Their efforts helped win a new day in court for Anthony McKinney, who has spent 31 years in prison for the slaying. But as they prepare for that crucial hearing, prosecutors seem to have focused on the students and teacher who led the investigation for the school's internationally acclaimed Medill Innocence Project.

The Cook County state's attorney subpoenaed the students' grades, notes and recordings of witness interviews, the class syllabus and even e-mails they sent to each other and to professor David Protess of the university's Medill School of Journalism.


Let's assume that the prosecutors are right - that the professor in the class told students to dig up information or receive a poor grade. Does that change the fact than an innocent person may have spent 31 years in prison for a crime he did not commit?

Clearly the prosecutor is trying to harass and intimidate the professor, his students, and anyone else who is involved with the Innocence Project.

Just as clearly, the argument that the students and the professor are not journalists and are not covered by legal protections is another stab at undermining the effort to exonerate the wrongly convicted.

Misconduct by prosecutors must be challenged at every level. At a minimum, I hope this outrageous act results in a complaint and investigation from the Illinois Bar Association. Politically, I hope the Cook County attorney is driven from office for wrongful prosecutions and immoral acts like this case.

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