Salon has a decent article about the case. Apparently, prosecutors are now alleging that witnesses recanted murder-trial testimony because the students paid them sums of up to (start Dr. Evil voice) one hundred dollars.
(If you’re not familiar with the case, read my previous posts about it here and here. My overall points are: The subpoena asks for too much information, and the prosecutors are making outlandish accusations; nonetheless, Medill’s defense rests on the journalist-shield law, under which Innocence Project members are quite arguably not considered journalists; shield laws in general are a bad idea because they discriminate in favor of journalists and force the government to decide who is and is not one.)
I wish the piece had more info on this, though:
The prosecutors, however, will likely get the documents they seek — unless a judge determines that the students are “journalists” under Illinois law. If the judge treats the students as journalists, then Illinois law would shield their communications from disclosure.
There are other ways to quash an unreasonable subpoena — are any of those available to the students? I can’t find much about Illinois’s rules on this.
In researching this post, I came upon this AP article from Monday, with a gem of a quote from Medill’s dean:
“I don’t think the prosecution in a criminal case . . . or the defense ever ought to be able to say we decide who is a journalist,” Lavine said. “They should never have that right.”
Well, first of all, the judge decides in the end, not either side. But the bottom line is that when the law treats journalists differently than it treats everyone else, someone has to decide who’s a journalist. You can’t base your legal argument on a law that discriminates in favor of journalists, and then act like prosecutors are out of line for trying to convince the judge you’re not a journalist.