Prosecutors: Illinois Journalism Students Paid Witnesses


Two witnesses told investigators they were paid during a probe by Northwestern University journalism students into a 1978 shotgun slaying that the students believe unjustly sent a man to prison for life, prosecutors allege, reports the Chicago Tribune. Witnesses Tony Drakes and Michael Lane reportedly told investigators of the Cook County state’s attorney’s office that they were given money in the hopes that their statements would help free Anthony McKinney, convicted of murdering a security guard.

Prosecutors said students with Northwestern’s Innocence Project haven’t turned over records of two interviews with Lane, who told state investigators he was also paid “$50 to $100, but did not sign anything or give information.” Northwestern journalism Prof. David Protess called the prosecutors’ court filing “so filled with factual errors that if my students had done this kind of reporting or investigating, I would have given them an F.” Protess, director of the journalism school’s Innocence Project, acknowledged that cab fare was paid but denied it was in exchange for Drakes’ statement putting himself at the scene of the crime. Drakes says in a video taken by students that McKinney was not present during the murder, but prosecutors say he later recanted the videotaped statement.

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