Did Students Famed for Freeing Inmates Commit a Crime?
David Protess, his Medill Innocence Project and its methods, under fire
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 19, 2010 2:38 PM CST
In this Oct. 26, 2009 photo, Northwestern University professor David Protess, founder of the Medill Innocence Project, talks with journalism students at a reporting strategy session in Evanston, Ill.   (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – Fame has followed Northwestern Professor David Protess for more than a decade: His Medill Innocence Project—which has eager students using their investigative journalism skills to help free the wrongfully convicted—has significantly altered Illinois' legal history, helping push then-Gov. George Ryan to halt executions. But the golden-child project has been tarnished of late, after it emerged that students may have used illegal wiretaps ... in one case, in a situation that critics say put them in danger.

The Chicago Tribune reports on the the 2004 instance. Students confronted a convicted killer with audio recordings they believed incriminated him in a security guard's murder: a crime Anthony McKinney was serving time for. Fearful of being attacked, one of them wore a wire, with a PI waiting outside, listening for signs of trouble. When the man began behaving "erratically," the PI began recording the witness, in violation of Illinois law. Though Protess says he didn't authorize the recording, media ethicists aren't happy: One, from Harvard, likened the situation to deploying students to cover a combat zone. "This is not student stuff. This is dealing with murderers." Click here to read the full, and very detailed, piece.