As always, the trailblazing Medill Innocence Project is making headlines around the country for its work — but this time with a slightly different kind of legal battle. Last week, in a front page story for the Tribune, reporter Jeff Long writes that students and Northwestern officials are battling with Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.
First, some background: Anthony McKinney has spent 31 years in prison for the 1978 shooting and death of a Harvey security officer, but after years of investigative work, the students who worked on the case say they found evidence that proves his innocence. After the evidence was brought to Northwestern’s Center on Wrongful Convictions and the Bluhm Legal Clinic, Alvarez and prosecutors agreed last year that McKinney should have a new trial.
But one year later, they seem to be focused on the class itself rather than the possible wrongful conviction. According to the Trib, the state’s attorney has subpoenaed the students’ grades, notes and recordings of witness interviews, the class syllabus and e-mails sent between students and David Protess, who started the Medill Innocence Project in 1999.
I was privileged to participate in the project (or “investigative journalism class” as students called it) in the winter of 2006, though I worked on a different case. In class, we regularly discussed McKinney’s case with the students investigating it, and I speak highly of their work. Right now, the immortal words of Joni Mitchell come to mind: Is justice just ice?
For even more background on the story, as well as links to other articles and an editorial published last week, you can check out another small post I wrote on this topic at Gapers Block.