Northwestern University accused journalism professor David Protess, whose project investigates wrongful convictions, of doctoring records and repeatedly lying to his department’s dean and the school’s lawyers, reports the Chicago Tribune. The controversy began nearly two years ago when Cook County, Il., prosecutors subpoenaed notes, grades, and recordings from Protess’ students, who had challenged inmate Anthony McKinney’s conviction for a 1978 shotgun slaying.
Protess and the university accused prosecutors of overreaching and sought to block their access to some student materials, claiming those records were covered by journalistic privilege. A lawyer hired by the university to represent the school and the professor abruptly quit representing Protess last fall, alleging Protess gave him inaccurate information about what materials had been shared with McKinney’s lawyers. Northwestern officials then hired a former federal prosecutor to review Protess’ conduct. Protess altered a 2007 email to “hide the fact that the student memos had been shared with McKinney’s lawyers,” a university official said.