Prosecutors Go After Famed Journalism Class
Professor calls it a 'smear campaign'
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 27, 2009 9:56 AM CST
Northwestern University professor David Protess, founder of the Medill Innocence Project, talks with journalism students at a reporting strategy session in Evanston, Ill, Oct. 26, 2009.   (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
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(Newser) – State prosecutors in Chicago are trying to take down a famed journalism class that tries to exonerate convicted men. Professor David Protess became a media star in 1991 when he and his class proved that convicted murderer David Dowaliby was innocent, and since then his students have helped free 10 more convicted murderers. Now prosecutors allege that his students paid informants, and acted as private investigators rather than journalists.

That would strip Protess and company of protections under Illinois shield law for reporters. Protess calls it a “smear campaign” motivated by “payback for previous embarrassments and pay-forward for cases my students are still investigating.” But the state’s attorney says they’re fair game. “This is not writing for the newspaper,” she says. “It’s creating evidence for a criminal court.”