The Northwestern University journalism students gathered new information through interviews, documents and affidavits casting serious doubt on McKinney’s conviction. The students, through their attorneys, have argued they are reporters and should be protected by the Illinois Reporters Act shielding them from the subpoenas.
Several media organizations, along with the Society of Professional Journalists and the Student Press Law Center, filed amicus briefs in support of the student journalists.
Cook County state’s attorneys today (Feb. 10) filed a response to those briefs claiming the students and their professor are criminal investigators and not journalists. Prosecutors in the brief further argued that, “… the students, the investigator and the teacher in the present case were not regularly engaged in collecting information for publication in a news medium.” [Please note, the Medill Innocence Project includes the services of a private investigator, Sergio Serritella, who is a teaching assistant and, according to professor Protess, helps develop investigative reporting strategies.]
The Chicago Headline Club, the largest professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, has been following the case and has attended all court hearings since October 2009.
CHC President Beth Konrad expressed disappointment with the latest developments in the case and the persistence of the state’s attorney’s office to pursue the subpoenas. “We believe these students are indeed journalists and should be afforded the protection of the Illinois Reporter’s Privilege Act shielding them from this unnecessary fishing expedition,” she said.
Attorneys for Northwestern say they will review the briefs and file a response at the next court hearing set for March 10.
The CHC will continue to monitor the case, and has pledged its ongoing support to the students and professor Protess.
For more information, contact Konrad, 312-915-6534, or Kathy Catrambone, CHC executive director, 312-733-7301.