Chicago prosecutors started a media firestorm in 2009 when they subpoenaed notes, recordings, and the grades of Northwestern University student journalists who believed they had proof that Anthony McKinney had wrongly been convicted of a 1978 murder, says the Chicago Tribune. The battle over press freedom has splintered into a feud between the university and the students’ professor — David Protess, whose Medill Innocence Project has been the pride of the prestigious journalism school.
For years Protess has led teams of students whose dogged investigative efforts have led to more than 10 inmates wrongly convicted of murder being freed from prison, some from death row. Protess’ future at Northwestern appears in question. Last month in the student newspaper, he accused the university of waging a “war” against him. This week, the university told students that Protess won’t be teaching his investigative reporting course for the upcoming spring quarter as expected. Students planning to take the course signed a petition asking university officials to reconsider and threatening to drop the class. Northwestern officials question if Protess was forthcoming about what he turned over to McKinney’s lawyers. Protess denied misleading the university or his lawyer, saying confusion between McKinney’s legal team and himself led to the dispute.