Shady Journalism, The Death Penalty, and Justice for All

August 20, 2017

A man goes to prison for murder. He is convicted and sentenced to the death penalty. Roughly 2 days before he is to be executed, he is exonerated and set free because a group of Journalism students and their professor break the case open and implicate someone else. Makes for a great story – wrongful conviction, almost putting to death the wrong guy, proving yet again that the death penalty can never be used in this country. But what if the exoneration was all BS, and based on a pack of lies? 

You just have to watch the film Murder in the Park. I am absolutely 100% against the death penalty, but obviously coercing confessions from other people, bullying witnesses, and concocting evidence and fake stories isn’t the way to void a death sentence. If someone did the crime, they have to pay for it, in the form of a life sentence in prison. 

A Professor at Northwestern University took it upon himself (more than once) to try to prove that people on death row were, in fact, innocent. He set up a group of students to do the grunt work, and sent out his own private investigator to bully and threaten people to get the work done. Unfortunately, he set up the wrong guy to be freed, and the extra other wrong guy to go down in flames for it and spend nearly 16 years in prison for something he didn’t do. 

Watching this film is like watching a horror film. It’s distressing on many levels. First of all, quite a few police officers were villified in the press, received threats, etc. – and they didn’t do anything wrong. Also, the real murderer now can’t be retried. He is out on the streets and the victim’s families can’t do anything about it. Worse yet, it puts an extremely bad light on other exonorees who likely should have their convictions voided! 

The Professor in question was dismissed by the University, and rightfully so, the Professor and the University are now being sued. But, how does this help the victim’s families? How does it help the wrongfully convicted man? How does it help potential victims of wrongful convictions? 

The scars from this disaster are far-reaching. As a former Journalism student, I found this case particularly distressing. I can’t believe this Professor was able to get away with these kinds of tactics for so long. Worse yet, I can’t believe the court system was so quick to listen and not review any of the evidence before setting a convicted killer free! 

People like this need to be held responsible for their actions, and I hope this pending lawsuit will help with a little bit of it. But, the truth is that this Professor and his cronies should be doing jail time. Shame on them for bowing to the almighty buck and doing this kind of work for book and movie deals. Shame on them all. 

I pray for all the victims – the people who were killed, the families, and the wrongfully and justly convicted. Most of all, I pray for the villains in this story, that they may seek forgiveness from those with whom they have done truly irreparable harm.

John 8:32 (NRSV): and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

Serve all with love.

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