Attorney Withdraws as Journalism Professor's Counsel

Professor David Protess, students subpoenaed for documents used in wrongful conviction investigations.

Saturday, Oct 23, 2010  |  Updated 9:30 AM CDT
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Professor Subpoenaed Over Student's Investigation

Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar, Flickr

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Professor Subpoenaed Over Student's Investigation

Cook County State's Attorney's Office wants students grades, e-mails and syllabi surrounding investigation of Anthony McKinney

Professor Subpoenaed Over Student's Investigation

Cook County State's Attorney's Office wants students grades, e-mails and syllabi surrounding investigation of Anthony McKinney
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A partner in a Chicago law firm has withdrawn from representing a Northwestern University journalism professor in a court battle with Cook County prosecutors.

Attorney Richard O'Brien didn't say Friday why he was stepping down as counsel to professor David Protess, but told a judge he had been incorrect when he previously said all the promised documents had been turned over to prosecutors, the Chicago Tribune reported.

O'Brien is an attorney with the firm of Sidley Austin.  Protess said he brought O'Brien on to "protect [his] student's interests."

The case stems from an investigation by Protess and his students aimed at exonerating Anthony McKinney in a 1978 murder case.
Prosecutors said they found the evidence unconvincing.

"When my students do reporting, they turn in memos to me for the purpose of getting an evaluation and a grade. They don't turn it in with the expectation that they will be fodder for discovery," he told the Tribune.

The case drew national attention when prosecutors subpoenaed the students' grades, private e-mails and Protess' syllabus. They said they wanted to investigate whether the students may have skewed their findings to get a good grade, a claim Protess and his
students have denied.
 

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