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David Protess
David Protess, Ph.D., is President of the Chicago Innocence Project, a nonprofit investigative reporting group that exposes wrongful convictions and other problems of the criminal justice system. He previously served for twelve years as director of the Medill Innocence Project at Northwestern University, where his students developed evidence that freed twelve innocent prisoners, five of whom had been on death row in Illinois. His two books with Rob Warden about wrongful convictions each received Investigative Reporters & Editors' Gold Medal award for Best Book, and in 2012 the Society of Professional Journalists/Chicago Headline Club gave its Best Blog award to his commentaries for the Huffington Post.

Entries by David Protess

Technical Fouls on Okla. Judge in Hoops Star's Rape Case

(52) Comments | Posted November 18, 2013 | 8:09 AM

When powerful evidence showed that an Oklahoma State University hoops star had been wrongfully convicted of rape, Judge Phillip Corley had a chance to blow the whistle. Instead, he blew the call.

Then an Oklahoma appeals court ordered a hearing on jury misconduct in the case, giving Corley another shot....

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Hidden Agenda Fuels Challenge to Pivotal Death Penalty Case

(78) Comments | Posted November 5, 2013 | 8:40 AM

Anthony Porter, the exonerated death row inmate whose jubilant release from prison was the catalyst for abolishing the death penalty in Illinois, is back in the news after living in relative obscurity for years. A lot has happened since reporters covered Porter's first steps to freedom, but brace...

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The Tribune Murdered the Truth

(89) Comments | Posted November 1, 2013 | 9:47 AM

This is my confession.

Although I read the opinion pages of several publications every day, I never glance at editorials in the Chicago Tribune. It's not a matter of principle. They're boring.

The subjects are predictable, the writing uninspired and the solutions squarely inside the box. And, frankly, on...

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What's Justice Got to Do With It?

(76) Comments | Posted October 29, 2013 | 9:33 AM

"Justice is in the interest of the stronger."
Thrasymachus, Plato's The Republic

"I'm looking for someone to explain justice," said Grace Slattery to a reporter. Slattery was lamenting the comparatively stiff prison sentence her son Patrick had received for his part in a patronage scandal under ex-Mayor...

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Judge Cannon's Rap

(75) Comments | Posted October 23, 2013 | 9:48 AM

Outside of legal circles, it is a little known fact that judges, like criminal defendants, have "rap sheets" -- cases involving past misconduct. A judge's "priors" include everything from reversals by higher courts to biases documented in court-reported transcripts. It is useful information for lawyers on both sides to have...

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Judge Cannon Misfires Again

(87) Comments | Posted October 22, 2013 | 12:35 PM

"No, no!" said the Queen. "Sentence first -- verdict afterwards." "Stuff and nonsense!" said Alice loudly. "The idea of having the sentence first!" "Hold your tongue!" said the Queen, turning purple. "I won't!" said Alice. "Off with her head!" the Queen shouted at the top of her voice.

--Lewis Carroll,...

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Readers Fight Back

(99) Comments | Posted October 15, 2013 | 11:57 AM

As I begin a third year blogging for The Huffington Post, a bouquet to readers who have posted comments below my ramblings. Some of you have agreed with my views about the criminal justice system, while others seem to think I am certifiably nuts. Either way, it has been a...

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Children of the Condemned

(120) Comments | Posted October 2, 2013 | 9:26 AM

The haunting photograph landed like a brick in my Inbox. It was sent by Sandrine Skinner, a French national who had just left Texas' death row where she had visited her husband, inmate Hank Skinner. "This is the first photo taken of Hank and me in 10 years," Sandrine wrote...

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Cook County Judge a Loose Cannon

(140) Comments | Posted September 24, 2013 | 8:48 AM

(This post has been updated with new developments. See below.)

Serbian immigrant Marko Pantelic drove across town to the Leighton Criminal Court Building on Sept. 6 to support a wrongfully accused friend and "to see how justice works in America." He should have stayed home.

Pantelic, 26, took a seat...

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Texas Inmate Defies Death As Evidence of Innocence Mounts

(145) Comments | Posted September 10, 2013 | 9:02 AM

Hank Skinner is in the final round of a fight against two heavyweights. One is the Texas lawmen who want him executed. The other is an often-fatal ailment that saps his strength and leaves him in constant pain. The odds makers give him little chance. Death, after all, is undefeated.

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The Death of Innocents

(150) Comments | Posted September 2, 2013 | 10:48 PM

Shortly after noon on Friday, a gray van from Brown's Funeral Home picked up the remains of a 53-year-old man in Dixon, IL and began the four-hour drive to his birthplace in Grand Rapids, MI. The driver headed south to I-88, then east to the Dan Ryan Expressway, crossing into...

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Did Political Clout Subvert Justice in Wrongful Conviction Case?

(86) Comments | Posted August 19, 2013 | 2:59 PM

After spending most of his 59 years behind bars for a crime he almost certainly did not commit, Stanley Wrice could finally taste freedom. Everything was going his way -- or so it seemed.

Last year, Wrice won a ringing victory before the Illinois Supreme Court, which unanimously...

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Police Torture Victim Beats City Hall But Cuffed by Suburban Cops

(135) Comments | Posted August 1, 2013 | 6:17 PM

Eric Caine had millions of reasons to smile, so why the glum expression when we met at our favorite eatery on July 25?

The previous day, the Chicago City Council had approved a $10 million settlement of his lawsuit against Comdr. Jon Burge and the...

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Requited Love

(42) Comments | Posted July 19, 2013 | 8:30 AM

Sherry, Sherry baby
Sherry, Sherry baby
Sher, Sher, Sher-ry bay-ay-by
Sherry, can you come out tonight?

Why don't you come out, with your red dress on
Come out, mmm you look so fine
Come out, move it nice and easy
Girl, you make me...

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Daley Subpoenaed in Police Torture Scandal -- Will He Finally Testify?

(58) Comments | Posted July 16, 2013 | 1:24 PM

Despite Mayor Rahm Emmanuel's promise that Chicago's police torture scandal will be "brought to a close," it has instead festered. One reason is that the mayor's predecessor, Richard M. Daley, has refused to come clean -- to reporters or in a court of law -- about the systematic...

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'Above All, I Am An Innocent Man'

(58) Comments | Posted July 9, 2013 | 8:46 AM

Armando Serrano and another man were convicted in the 1993 slaying of a Humboldt Park resident as he left for work. The prosecution's case consisted of testimony by a jailhouse snitch who claimed the men confessed to him, and the widow of the victim who offered a possible motive for...

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Tables Turned at Wrongful Conviction Hearing

(103) Comments | Posted June 18, 2013 | 5:45 PM

The anticipation was palpable in Courtroom 307 of the George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building on Monday as Judge Maura Slattery Boyle ascended to the bench. Two prisoners had waited 20 years for this moment: a showdown with the Chicago cop they claimed had framed them, and the jailhouse snitch...

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A Tale of Two Snitches

(56) Comments | Posted June 10, 2013 | 4:41 PM

It was the worst of times for Francisco Vicente. Caught red-handed for a robbery spree in 1993, the Humboldt Park heroin addict was facing 20 years to life. But Vicente's fortunes improved with help from an unexpected source -- Det. Reynaldo Guevara.

The grizzled cop from Area 5...

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Why Prosecutors Fear Widow's Testimony in Wrongful Conviction Case

(67) Comments | Posted May 28, 2013 | 5:47 PM

Wilda Vargas was widowed by a gunman's bullets in 1993. Her testimony helped convict two Humboldt Park men who have steadfastly professed their innocence. Now she wants to set the record straight by testifying at a court hearing that will determine whether the men win new trials. Why are Cook...

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Wrongful Conviction Hearing a Revelation

(81) Comments | Posted May 20, 2013 | 6:11 PM

Besides the drama that unfolds within its majestic walls, a courtroom can illuminate the justice system -- sometimes by a revealing slip of the tongue.

That is what happened on Wednesday in room 307 of the George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building, where Cook County Judge Maura Slattery Boyle was...

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