Martin Preib

Award-winning Writer





Medill Journalists Ignore Half The Story

Journalists in Chicago who graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism are remaining faithful to their alma mater.

A sign of this loyalty emerges in the bizarre coverage from these graduates of a massive federal lawsuit alleging misconduct against a retired Chicago detective.

The lawsuit against Detective Ray Guevara was announced last week by Loevy and Loevy attorney Russell Ainsworth. In it, Ainsworth alleges Jose Montanez and Armando Serrano were coerced into confessing to a 1993 murder. Both men were released from prison last year.

The lawsuit names not just Guevara as a defendant, but also several prosecutors, one of whom is now a judge.

But the coverage of the Serrano/Montanez case by some Medill graduates omits key connections to the reporters' alma mater, Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

Let’s take a look at the coverage by the two Medill graduates, Mike Lowe from WGN and Megan Crepeau, courts and crime reporter for the Chicago Tribune.

In her Tribune article, reporter Megan Crepeau admits the Serrano/Montanez case is tied to Northwestern University:

In 2004, after a series of interviews with students from the Medill Innocence Project, Vicente [a witness] recanted his testimony, saying Guevara had fed him the story.

But here is what Crepeau omits. Northwestern is now a defendant in a massive lawsuit brought by Alstory Simon and his attorneys, who claim Simon was coerced into confessing to a 1982 double murder he did not commit. Simon, whose conviction paved the way for Anthony Porter to be released in 1999 for the same murders, was released from prison in 2014 after a year-long review of the case by Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.

Simon’s attorneys allege misconduct on the part of Northwestern, a former professor, David Protess, and a private investigator, Paul Ciolino.

In a letter to Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez in 2013, Simon’s lawyers stated:

“…we ask you to strongly consider the substantial evidence developed by your office in…People vs. Serrano in the last two years which have demonstrated Protess’s pattern and practice of using illegal coercive tactics to extract favorable testimony in post-conviction proceedings…”

That’s right. Simon’s attorneys allege “illegal, coercive conduct.” Then in their lawsuit, Simon’s attorneys allege:

In 2004, an incarcerated witness in Serrano stated that he provided Northwestern with a statement in the case (which he later recanted and acknowledged was false), solely because several female Medill students visited him, and flirted with and flattered him. The witness stated that three female students visited him the first time and two female students visited him the second time, and he made up a story to keep the “pretty girls” around. The witness stated that the girls sent him cards and letters when he was released from prison…

Protess left Northwestern under the cloud of scandal in 2011 after the university acknowledged misconduct on his part in another wrongful conviction investigation. Northwestern issued a statement:

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.

Knowingly mispresented the facts? None of this makes its way into the reports by either Crepeau or Lowe.

But it gets worse. In another exoneration, Circuit Court Judge Thomas Byrne rejected the claim that Stanley Wrice, convicted of brutally raping and severely burning a victim in 1982, was innocent of the crime.

In a 44-page ruling, Judge Thomas Byrne concluded that what he called strong circumstantial evidence, eyewitness testimony and physical evidence recovered at the crime scene all "powerfully" pointed to the guilt of Stanley Wrice in the 1982 rape.

In particular, Byrne cast suspicion on the witness recantations that formed the basis of Wrice’s innocence bid, a retraction obtained through investigators working at Protess’ Chicago Innocence Project. Regarding one recantation, Byrne wrote:

[The witness] has only come forward with his affidavit recanting his trial testimony in anticipation of the litigation surrounding petitioner’s post-conviction petition. In fact, it was not until 2011 when he was contacted by the Chicago Innocence Project that he changed his story. His affidavit was prepared nearly 30 years after the crime occurred. The circumstances surrounding his recantation affidavit are certainly suspicious in light of Williams’ prior inconsistent testimony as it relates to this case.

Certainly Crepeau and Lowe mentioned the judge's opinion, in a case where a woman was repeatedly raped and then almost burned to death?

Not one single word from either one.

Instead, Crepeau and Lowe echo Loevy and Loevy attorney Russell Ainsworth about an alleged pattern of coerced confessions by Guevara, even arguing that prosecutors were in on it, without mentioning this alleged pattern of misconduct against Protess and Northwestern investigators that is taking shape in the federal courts.

How can this pass for legitimate journalism? Add to the mix the fact that these journalists are graduates of Medill, and, well, the suspicious bias of these reports rises to a whole new level.

Wrongful conviction law firms like Loevy and Loevy are adept at moving wrongful conviction cases out of the courtroom and into the media. With journalists like Crepeau and Lowe, it’s little wonder why.

And it’s clear that in this court of public opinion controlled by media reps like Lowe and Crepeau, no police officer is going to get a fair trial.