Criminal Justice

Prosecutor Wants To Know Journalism Students' Grades


So you're a prosecutor in a county that has seen well more than its fair share of wrongful convictions over the years, including in several capital cases. Many of those innocence cases were uncovered by a journalism class at a nearby university. That class has just uncovered yet another possible wrongful conviction. What do you do?

If you're Cook County, Illinois State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, you harrass the journalism students.

After spending three years investigating the conviction of a Harvey man accused of killing a security guard with a shotgun blast in 1978, journalism students at Northwestern University say they have uncovered new evidence that proves his innocence.

Their efforts helped win a new day in court for Anthony McKinney, who has spent 31 years in prison for the slaying. But as they prepare for that crucial hearing, prosecutors seem to have focused on the students and teacher who led the investigation for the school's internationally acclaimed Medill Innocence Project.

The Cook County state's attorney subpoenaed the students' grades, notes and recordings of witness interviews, the class syllabus and even e-mails they sent to each other and to professor David Protess of the university's Medill School of Journalism.

Alvarez says she needs to know the students' grades and snoop in their email in order to assess the credibility of the witnesses the students interviewed as part of their investigation. Her chief of staff defended the action by arguing Alvarez's office needs to know if the students are biased in their work.

Given the number of wrongful convictions in Cook County over the years, Alvarez should probably be more concerned about policing bias among the county's prosecutors.

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  1. I can see their notes. If they interviewed witnesses, then that is a prior statement that could be used to impeach their testimony if they later contradict it. But the grades and e-mails are totally irrelevent and not likly to produce any relevent evidence. The judge should rule 11 his dumb ass.

  2. Shut the fuck up, Anita Alvarez.

  3. Alvarez says she needs to know the students’ grades and snoop in their email in order to assess the credibility of the witnesses the students interviewed

    Shouldn’t she be asking for the grades and email of the *witnesses*, then?

    Incredible stuff.

    1. I kind of assumed she was working from the logic that the accuracy of the reporting of the witness’s statements would relate to the competence of the student reporter doing the interview.

      Trouble is from my experience it’s quiet common that the ablest journeymen were often the one’s who had gotten the shittiest grades in school.

      1. The soundness of the interviews is in no way related to grades, IMHO.

        Grades are (for the most part) hoops to jump through to demonstrate a rudimentary understanding of material academically speaking.

        Me persoanlly, I hated homework. I tended to view it as busy work. Tests, OTOH,I took with the utmost seriouness.

        1. Ditto. In my entire school life, homework never pulled up my average score.

          Fortunately, I went to a college that considered homework to be something you did on your own to help learn, and was rarely a part of your grade.

  4. Bad yes, but this is worse. I hope Reason looks into this:

    Kinston, N.C — Voters in this small city decided overwhelmingly last year to do away with the party affiliation of candidates in local elections, but the Obama administration recently overruled the electorate and decided that equal rights for black voters cannot be achieved without the Democratic Party. The Justice Department’s ruling, which affects races for City Council and mayor, went so far as to say partisan elections are needed so that black voters can elect their “candidates of choice”–identified by the department as those who are Democrats and almost exclusively black. The department ruled that white voters in Kinston will vote for blacks only if they are Democrats and that therefore the city cannot get rid of party affiliations for local elections because that would violate black voters’ right to elect the candidates they want.…..isan-vote/

    1. There is a common thread running through both stories — Chicago style heavy-handed politics.

      1. Chicago-style? This is a small town in North Carolina. Small towns definitely have their fair share of heavy-handed politics.

        1. Seriously, Chicago didn’t invent dirty politics, nor do they hold a patent, they just perfected and popularized.

          1. “Chicago didn’t invent dirty politics…”

            The fossil record is ambiguous on this point.

        2. Your reading comprehension is shit. Or did you purposefully miss the part where it’s the Obama Administration playing the dirty politics?

  5. Get used to it, people. This is Obama-style politics.

    1. Don’t be an idiot, this style of politics existed way before Obama was born.

      1. Maybe, but Obama and his band play it far better and more aggressively than any administration in recent memory.

        1. Define “it”.

          In this case, the feds have little control over a state procecutor. So what is “it” that Obama is doing better?

          1. I’ll tell you what “it” is. It’s abuse of power. Just look at the Kinston, N.C story. The town (the fucking town; you now, a local jurisdiction, not federal) OVERWHELMINGLY votes to eliminate to the party affiliation of candidates in local elections (what kind of elections – LOCAL) and the Obama administration (you know, the federal fucking government) overruled the electorate, so that black voters can elect their “candidates of choice”.

            Fucking goddam motherfucking racist piece of shit federal govenment.

            That’s what “it” is.

            1. Blacks are like children. They need special help. To stupid to vote without it.

              1. to = too

            2. Is there some reason that party affiliation is needed in able to vote for the candidate of your choice? Or is it simply that without party affiliation, you’ll actually have to know which candidate you’re voting for and not just vote the party line?

          2. And the FCC wants to fine FOX for exercising free speech, in addition to claiming they are not a legitimate news agency. Obama is attacking the media He doesn’t like — just like Hugo Chavez.

            1. link? That’s outrageous if true (the fining part at least).

          3. Define “little”.

      2. citation needed*

        *Maybe Nixon. But maybe not.

      3. born in Kenya, that is 🙂

  6. Alvarez says she needs to know the students’ grades and snoop in their email in order to assess the credibility of the witnesses the students interviewed as part of their investigation go on a fishing expedition for any evidence they can use to justify their past erroneous conviction.

    1. How do you know the conviction was “erroneous”?

      1. Alvarez says she needs to know the students’ grades and snoop in their email in order to assess the credibility of the witnesses the students interviewed as part of their investigation go on a fishing expedition.

  7. Almost as bad as Obama asking the FCC to fine FOXNews

    1. The FOX News fines story was a hoax.

  8. Oh, that’s not a terribly bright move on Alvarez’ part. She’s going to make enemies of a whole generation of up and coming journos who are young, hungry and looking for that big career break. Can anyone say “payback?”

  9. I love how Avarez is so unbothered by the fact that perhaps an innocent man has spent 30 years in jail. No, the real problem here is that one of these kids might not have done their homework. Dumb bitch.

    1. A cognative dissonance of sorts?

      Once a prosecutor gets a guilty plea, any new information will trigger one of two events. 1. The person will automatically writeoff the new evidence as false, or 2. Re-evaluate their position and choose accordingly.

      Most people follow #1.

      After spending time to get the guilty verdict, they are invested in keeping it regardless of the reality.

      1. This was 30 years ago. The people who prosecuted this are long gone. That is pathetic. They are just brainwashed assholes who refuse to believe their office is ever wrong. Hell must be awfully crowded.

    2. Is this your homework, Larry?

  10. First qualification to be a prosecutor: a complete and utter lack of ability to admit you have been wrong about anything, ever. Ever.

    1. George Bush missed his calling.

      1. I hope you mean George W. Bush.

        1. Yes.

    2. It’s very difficult to sleep if you know that innocent people are in jail because of you. That’s why if you aren’t completely and totally arrogant, you shouldn’t be a prosecutor.

      1. I was a prosecutor and wasn’t arrogant. I just made damn sure I was reasonable and didn’t take any innocent people to trial. Sadly, I made very few friends doing that.

        And if anyone ever came to me with evidence that any of them were innocent, I would be the first person to try to undo the wrong. That means that as much as I loved doing it, I will probably never be allowed to do it again.

        1. Wow, so you didn’t “misplace” to forget admit to discovery exculpatory evidence? I am impressed.

          I could never be a prosecutor; I am not built for it or law in general.

      2. As witnessed by Nancy Grace, the quintessential prosecutor. I can’t watch her show because her absolute, unwavering confidence that she is right about everything makes my stomach turn.

    3. Are defense attorneys any different?

      By the way, why aren’t there any student Guilt Projects? Have them go out and dig up evidence that somebody now on the streets should be in jail. Not as much righteous fun, I suppose.

      1. We already pay people to do that.

  11. “Her chief of staff defended the action by arguing Alvarez’s office needs to know if the students are biased in their work.”

    Well, duh. That’s the whole point of the current system: competing advocates on each side of the courtroom. Is the DA trying to argue that such a system works but only when the accused isn’t guilty?

    I want the most vicious murderer to get the best defense possible for his crimes. “Everybody is entitled to…” means _everybody_.

  12. Shouldn’t the defense seek Alavarez’s grades in retaliation then? How did she do in her criminal law class?

  13. students at Northwestern University say they have uncovered new evidence that proves his innocence.

    And just what would that be? Because if it’s a witness who says “no he was with me the whole time”, that seems like mighty thin gruel. OTOH if they have a hotel registry from the next stat, what difference does it make how biased the witness’ are?

  14. Fuck ‘ em. They’re just going to grow up and join the MSM. Right? Right?

  15. The system doesn’t work for the people, the system works for the system.

  16. So what if the students are biased in their work? If what they found is true, then that is irrelevant. If what they found is false, then it is less relevant than the fact that they are spreading falsehoods. Their grades matter not a whit.

  17. Alvarez became a lib nedia darling by virtue of winning a Dem primary in Cook County. A hispanic and the only female, she garnered a bit over 25% of the vote. Way to go!

  18. In the immortal words of Yakov Smirnoff – “What a country!”

  19. It’s called Crook County for a reason.

  20. What if the students got together and went in search for three people that would claim to have witnessed this crime and were willing to perjure themselves? After all, we are talking about Journalism students!

  21. Perhaps the students next project should be to investigate Ms. Alvarez?

    What were her grades in law school? What was her LSAT score? What’s in her e-mails?

    The public has a right to know!

  22. Remember how the article tells us that the students found “new evidence that proves his innocence”?

    Pop quiz: what “new evidence” did the article then describe for us?

    Wouldn’t knowing exactly what that evidence is be very useful for us readers trying to figure out, in the dark and spoonfed little pieces of information, which story comes closest to the truth here?

    It’s such a huge gap in the story that I’m left with only one impression: since the writer quietly walked right past that issue without even a blink – nothing like “the students wouldn’t disclose that new evidence yet”, or maybe “the new evidence has to do with ________” – there’s absolutely no further mention of this very central issue – this tells me this:

    The writer either knows, or strongly suspects, that the new evidence is trash, and that there’s no story here beyond the prosecutor’s really, really strange discovery choices, but how many readers are going to give a dang once they know that McKinney’s central humor point – that the county has so many wrongful convictions in its past that maybe it ought to concentrate on fixing that – doesn’t even apply in this story?

  23. It doesn’t matter what the evidence is that these kids uncovered: it should be looked at on its own merit. That this BITCH Alvarez should subpoena everything, as she is doing, is sickening. I have no idea if the man in jail is innocent or guilty, don’t know the case, don’t know what the ‘kids’ have, but there is no justification for the Stalinist tactics being used against the students.

  24. This is ridiculous. Prosecution gone wrong. Grades and Credibility have absolutely NO RELATIONS. Some of the worst criminals went to Harvard.

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