March 28, 2010 in City

Police seek professor’s notes

Reports helped clear 1994 murder convict
Associated Press

SEATTLE – Lawyers for Chicago police officers being sued by an exonerated murder convict have subpoenaed the notes of a Western Washington University journalism professor who 16 years ago wrote stories questioning his guilt.

Assistant professor Carolyn Nielsen was a graduate student at Northwestern University in 1994 when she wrote stories that questioned the trial and conviction of Thaddeus Jimenez. Her lawyer said Friday she does not intend to turn over her notes or letters.

Jimenez was 13 when he was arrested and charged with the fatal street shooting of an 18-year-old Chicago man. Despite a confession by someone else, Jimenez was charged, convicted after two trials and sentenced to 45 years in prison.

Last year, after key witnesses against him recanted, Jimenez was exonerated by a group of lawyers who say Nielsen’s reporting spurred their interest in the case. Now free, Jimenez has sued the Chicago Police Department and six of its officers for false arrest.

Nielsen wrote on her blog that she was thrilled at the exoneration and had stayed in touch with Jimenez.

“It was the only instance in my journalism career in which I switched from reporter to advocate,” she wrote on May 4, 2009. “More than 14 years later, I still have my original draft, my notes and letters TJ (Jimenez) sent me when I interviewed him via mail.”

That sentence caught the attention of lawyers representing the officers. They subpoenaed the documents this month, hoping to find details to back their assertion that the investigation and arrest were reasonable.

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