Northwestern prof demands independent probe into his ouster

April 14, 2011

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The former head of a well-respected journalism program at Northwestern University wants an outside probe into why he been placed on leave.

David Protess was the head of the Medill Innocence Project at Northwestern until the university announced on March 29 that he'd been placed on leave for making false statements to university lawyers about one of his investigations.

Protess says he and his students helped get twelve wrongfully-convicted men out of jail. And former Illinois Gov. George Ryan credited their work when he imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in 2000.

In May 2009, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office subpoeaed documents from Protess' students about one of their investigations into the case of a man convicted of murder. The school says Protess lied to Northwestern lawyers about which documents he'd turned over to the man's lawyers.

Protess said the university hasn't provided all of the evidence against him, and he questions the university's motives for investigating him.
 
"And one reason we've not gotten answers to those questions is because the review that the university conducted was done by three former prosecutors," Protess said. "You just can't have former prosecutors investigating an innocence project and expect to learn the truth."

Protess also accused the Cook County State's Attorney's Office of trying to discredit him because Protess had uncovered evidence that another man had been wrongfully convicted.

A Northwestern spokesman says the school will not release its full report about Protess, but he declined to comment further.