Media organizations today urged an Illinois judge to block a criminal prosecutor’s subpoena for the notes and records from students in Medill’s Innocence Project at Northwestern University.
Student researchers in an investigative journalism program devoted to examining potential wrongful convictions uncovered new evidence that brought under scrutiny the conviction of Anthony McKinney, who has spent the last 31 years behind bars after being convicted of murder. In the process of reexamining the case for a new hearing, Cook County prosecutors subpoenaed the “notes, memoranda, reports and summaries” of the then-student journalists.
Hearst Corp. filed a friend-of-the-court brief joined by organizations including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and CBS News, advising against the forced disclosure of the materials and arguing that journalistic student work should be protected by the Illinois Reporter’s Privilege Act.
Student press advocates including Student Press Law Center and the Society of Professional Journalists echoed these arguments in a separate filing.
Judge Diane Cannon today ruled that the organizations could submit their briefs to the court and scheduled the next hearing on the matter for Feb. 10, the Chicago Tribune reported.