Nov 11, 2009

Prosecutors claim j-school students bought favorable interviews

Faced with a new report that casts doubt on the 1978 murder conviction of Anthony McKinney, Cook County prosecutors have launched a campaign to discredit the work of the current and former students at the Medill School of Journalism who prepared the report.

In a Tuesday court hearing, prosecutors alleged that students paid witnesses for favorable interviews - $50-$100 in one case, $40 in another. The hearing is part of an effort by prosecutors to force the students to turn over off-the-record interviews, notes and even grade information about their investigation.

From the New York Times:
After the hearing, a former student, Evan Benn, who works for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, said he had given the cab driver $60 because the driver had estimated it would cost at least $50 to take Mr. Drakes where he wanted to go. It was not supposed to be a payment for Mr. Drakes, Mr. Benn said.
So prosecutors think the students coerced a witness into placing himself at the scene of a murder with an implicit promise to give him the change from a cab ride? The man who headed the student project defended their work, and dismissed the prosecutors' allegations. From the Chicago Tribune:
Professor David Protess, of the university's Medill School of Journalism, called the filing "so filled with factual errors that if my students had done this kind of reporting or investigating, I would have given them an F."

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