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The Cook County State's Attorney's Office on Monday contended that student investigators paid a witness for a statement during their investigation to exonerate Anthony McKinney, according to Chicago Breaking News.
"Tony Drakes gave his video statement with the understanding that he would receive cash if he gave answers that inculpated himself," reads a statement filed by prosecutors.
If the students did indeed pay Drake, they would have been acting as investigators and not students, and thus would not be protected by press rights.
The student investigators were working on behalf of NU's Innocence Project, which investigates wrongful convictions. Students of the project won a new day in court for McKinney in 2003. But as the case prepares to go to court, prosecutors are focusing on how the students and professors investigated the case.
Students said that witnesses told them they implicated McKinney after they were beaten by police.
Two of those men have since recanted, saying the students paid them off, say prosecutors.
The state's attorney last month subpoenaed the students' grades, notes and recording of witness interviews, the class syllabus and e-mails they sent during their investigation.
Northwestern has turned over several of those documents but is fighting the effort to get grades and grading criteria, plus unpublished student memos and intrerviews not conducted on the record.
The director of the Innocence Project, David Protess, could face contempt of court charges by refusing.
"They need to understand that federal law prohibits me from sharing that information with them. It is private, privileged information. I can no more share information about my students grades with their parents than I can with prosecutors. At least, not without their permission," Protess said.
McKinney is currently serving a life sentence for killing a security guard in 1978.