Days after the death penalty was abolished in Illinois, one of the key people who helped prove the innocence of men on the state’s death row—thus setting into motion the political action that led to abolition—has lost his job.
David Protess, a professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism for 29 years, was dismissed this week, reportedly for no official reason. As the head of Northwestern’s Innocence Project, Protess devoted himself to teaching journalism students investigative skills that, literally, had life-or-death impact. Under his direction, students uncovered evidence that saved five men from death row and at least another six from prison. While he will retain his position at the Innocence Project, his expulsion from the journalism school is a travesty—and a major loss for the countless students inspired by the work he pioneered.
The firing seems to have been rather cold for a professor who attracted so much admiration for his work. According to the Daily Northwestern, “Medill Dean John Lavine told Protess about the decision in an e-mail Monday, Protess said. No reason was given, and there have not yet been any conversations about the future, he added.”For the past few years, Protess and his students have been in the crosshairs of the Cook County DA’s office, which, forced to grapple with the fallout of Protess’s investigations when it would have preferred to keep its role in sentencing innocent people to die in prison under wraps, finally decided to begin an intimidation campaign against Northwestern.... (more in article)