County prosecutors in Illinois have subpoenaed the grades, notes, recordings, and electronic correspondence of journalism students who have been gathering evidence that could exonerate a convicted criminal defendant, the Chicago Tribune reported.
A judge will consider the evidence uncovered by students at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism during an upcoming hearing to decide whether Anthony McKinney, who has been incarcerated for 31 years after being convicted of murder, should receive a new trial.
The university turned over the recordings of witness interviews, but is fighting the request for materials relating to the class itself. Professors involved with the project and press advocates told the Tribune the subpoena was an attempt to discredit the project, which has helped free 11 wrongfully convicted defendants since its inception in 1999.
The prosecutors in the case have asserted that the Medill students and their professor are not journalists and that their work is therefore not protected by an Illinois law that protects journalists from subpoenas.