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UT Holds Conference on Innocent and Wrongful Convictions

Submitted by Donna Silvey on June 30, 2011 – 3:03pm

Professional journalists from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri and journalism students from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, participated in the 2011 McCormick Institute on Innocence/Wrongful Conviction Projects hosted by the UT School of Journalism and Electronic Media. The institute took place on June 29 and 30, 2011.

 The event was sponsored by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

 “The school of journalism and electronic media is looking at the possibility of starting a journalism-based innocence/wrongful conviction project and this mini conference is part of that start-up process,” said Peter Gross, director of the School of Journalism and Electronic Media.  

The first day of the conference included

  • An introduction to the journalism school-based innocence projects by Steven Weinberg of the Midwestern Innocence Project at the University of Missouri
  • The keynote presentation, “The Process of Investigation, Intake and Prosecution of Federal Criminal Cases in the Eastern District of Tennessee,” by William C. Killian, US Attorney, Eastern District of Tennessee
  • A discussion of the art of investigative reporting and innocence/wrongful conviction projects by Maurice Possley, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist (formerly with the Chicago Tribune) and a visiting research fellow with the Northern California Innocence Project at Santa Clara University
  • A panel discussion, “The ups and downs of innocence projects” with Steven Weinberg; Lindsay Markel, assistant director of Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, Brandeis University; Bill Moushey, the Innocence Institute of Western Pennsylvania, Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, Point Park College; David Protess, Chicago Innocence Project and former director of the Medill School of Journalism Innocence Project at Northwestern University

The second day of the conference included

  • A presentation, “Wrongful Conviction Cases at UT,” and a discussion of the UT Innocence/Wrongful Conviction Clinic by Professor Dwight Aarons, UT College of Law, the Innocence/Wrongful Convictions Clinic
  • A presentation, “What Makes or Breaks a Wrongful Conviction Story?” by Doug Longhini, Emmy award-winning investigative journalist, “48 Hours,” CBS News
  • A presentation on the First Amendment and innocence projects by Gene Policinski, senior vice president and executive director, First Amendment Center, Freedom Forum/Vanderbilt University
  • A wrap-up panel, “How to Improve Innocence Project Investigations, the Role of Journalism Schools and the Involvement of General Circulation Media” with Longhini, Policinski, Weinberg, Aarons, Markel, Moushey and Protess.