Former Medill professor David Protess, accused by Northwestern University of doctoring emails and repeatedly providing “false and misleading information” to Medill’s dean, John Lavine, said Wednesday he will “participate fully in any independent review that makes its findings available to the public.” Protess said he’d “publicly release all 26,600 ‘hits’ from the imaged hard drives of his work and home computers” to the review team.
Lawyers representing the university recently conducted a forensic analysis of five computers — two of them at Protess’s home, the other three at the offices of the Medill Innocence Project Protess ran — to determine what information the Innocence Project had turned over to the lawyers for Anthony McKinney. McKinney is a convicted killer who Protess and his students from the Innocence Project concluded, after a three-year investigation, did not commit the murder for which McKinney’s been a prisoner since 1978.
According to the university, what those computers revealed was devastating. Northwestern said in a statement April 6 that “the review uncovered considerable evidence that Protess: authorized the release of all student memos to Mr. McKinney’s lawyers despite his repeated claims to the contrary; knew from the very beginning that doing so waived any claim of privilege; and repeatedly provided false and misleading information to the lawyers and the dean….. In sum, Protess knowingly misrepresented the facts and his actions to the University, its attorneys and the dean of Medill on many documented occasions. He also misrepresented facts about these matters to students, alumni, the media and the public. He caused the University to take on what turned out to be an unsupportable case and unwittingly misrepresent the situation both to the Court and to the State.”
Protess has allowed that his memory failed him occasion as to what he shared with McKinney’s lawyers several years ago, but he insists he did not deliberately try to deceive anyone, and that the computer search turned up only trivial differences in the language of a few emails as written and as he’d described them to lawyers.