Monday, September 26, 2011

Targeting David Protess Six Years -- ARDC Complaint Latest Maneuver by the DuPage County Brotherhood

A complaint submitted last month to the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois (ARDC) makes strong accusations, not only against a former attorney of convicted killer Alstory Simon, but others as well. Most notable is David Protess, former director of the Medill Innocence Project at Northwestern University. 

The ARDC complaint was filed exactly one week before the nationally-publicized ruling that Medill and Protess turn over their emails from the Anthony McKinney investigation to Cook County prosecutors involving another case.

This time, however, the drumbeat against Protess (and not so indirectly Medill) didn't bang from Cook County. Instead it came from from a small DuPage County band of brothers who have persistently targeted Protess for six years. 

The DuPage Connections

DuPage County defense attorneys Terry Ekl and James Sotos currently represent Simon, whose confession of a 1982 double homicide in Chicago exonerated Anthony Porter in 1999. Simon is serving a 37-year sentence at the Danville Correctional Center. 

Just 50 hours away from lethal injection, Porter caught the attention of then-Gov. George Ryan who declared a moratorium on executions the following year. The former death row inmate unwittingly had become the catalyst for the moratorium and the movement to abolish the death penalty. Porter and those who worked to exonerate him, including the Medill Innocence Project, didn't sit well with certain groups -- particularly Illinois state's attorneys.

Ekl and Sotos, described by Chicago Tribune's Eric Zorn as "two lawyers cast in unlikely role as crusaders", developed a sudden interest in the plight of Simon shortly after Randy Steidl filed a wrongful conviction lawsuit in 2005. Steidl and Herb Whitlock had been convicted for the 1986 murders of Dyke and Karen Rhoads in Paris, Ill. A similar lawsuit was filed by Whitlock following his release in 2008; the same court is hearing both cases.

Ekl's firm represents former Edgar County State's Attorney Michael McFatridge while Sotos' firm represents the city of Paris. With the potential to be among the largest wrongful conviction verdicts in Illinois history, the Steidl-Whitlock cases have state, county and local entities worried. The trial is scheduled for January.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Whose Side Is He On? Prominent Illinois Press Attorney Donald Craven Worked for the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor

Well-known Illinois media attorney Donald Craven received over $50,000 from ILSAAP starting in December 2008. During this time, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez was embroiled in a nationally-publicized subpoena dispute with the Medill Innocence Project and Northwestern Prof. David Protess. Medill and Protess were also targets of a smear campaign in an ongoing wrongful conviction lawsuit. State records show Craven performed legal services for ILSAAP in this same lawsuit.

Illinois media attorney Donald Craven of Springfield was paid $51,300 by the Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor (ILSAAP) for roughly 250 hours of legal services from December 2008 through June 2010. ILSAAP was created to provide services to state's attorneys including appellate cases, certain drug-related cases and special prosecutions. (725 ILCS 210) 

Craven serves as general counsel to the Illinois Press Association, the Illinois Broadcasters Association and the Illinois News Broadcasters Association. According to his website, his expertise includes subpoenas compelling journalists to testify and turn over notes, tapes and photographs that were not published or broadcast.

While Craven worked for ILSAAP, Cook County State's Attorney and ILSAAP Board of Governors member Anita Alvarez was embroiled in a subpoena dispute with the Medill Innocence Project and Prof. David Protess over notes and other materials related to the Northwestern students' investigation of Anthony McKinney. McKinney had been convicted in a 1978 shotgun slaying in Harvey. Briefs submitted by Alvarez' office contained legal arguments with multiple citations of media law.

Medill has investigated over 50 cases, leading to the exoneration of 12 people -- five of whom had been sentenced to death. New York Times media writer David Carr wrote, "The students who worked on the McKinney case were probably not expecting a thank-you note from prosecutors, but they weren’t expecting a subpoena either."

Craven was quoted in news articles regarding this nationally publicized tug-of-war, including the Chicago Tribune"They're either trying to undermine the investigation, or they're trying to undermine the entire project," and the New York Times: "Take to its logical conclusion, what they're trying to do is dismantle the project."