The Medill Justice Project investigates potentially wrongful murder convictions.
The Jennifer Del Prete Case
How a murder case hinged on expert witnesses
Medill Justice Project investigation of shaken-baby syndrome case raises questions about the role of expert testimony
By Christina Assi, Rebecca Cohen, Anika Dutta, Stephanie Fuerte and Alex Hampl
The Medill Justice Project
Published: March 19, 2013
Read the investigative story here.
Read about new medical theories in the case here.
View the public documents obtained for the investigation here.
Watch a video featuring Del Prete’s daughter Tia here.
The Pamela Jacobazzi Case
Medill Innocence Project Probes 18-Year-Old Child-Abuse Case, Examining Medical Advances That Challenge Chicago-Area Day Care Owner’s Murder Conviction
In the project’s first published shaken-baby syndrome investigation, Medill students unearth old records, sources that shed new light on the circumstances of an infant’s death
By Mitchell Armentrout, Timna Axel, Lynne Fort, Janice Janeczko, Erin Kim, Valerie King, Joseph Lumley, Safiya Merchant, Ashley Powell and Miranda Viglietti
Medill Innocence Project
Published: Dec. 11, 2012
Twenty hours after a 10-month-old infant was airlifted in critical condition to Lutheran General Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., a doctor examined his damaged eyes through a hand-held lens, identifying the telltale signs of what is known as shaken-baby syndrome. What could not be foreseen were significant developments in the medical understanding of this form of child abuse over the next 18 years, which cast doubt on the infant’s diagnosis and the criminal proceedings that followed. Read the full story.
The Ariel Gomez Case
Over several months, students tracked down murder victim Concepcion Diaz’s wife, Manuela Avalos, overcoming the difficulty of finding someone who went by a different first and last name in court documents. During an interview with students, Avalos said she did not remember writing a victim-impact statement where she asked the judge to sentence Ariel Gomez to the maximum penalty. In addition to Avalos’ story, students also profiled Gomez’s wife, Ivette Ginjauma, who married Gomez while he was in prison. Read the full story here.
Students interview an elusive co-defendant in the case, Paul Yalda, who was acquitted in 1998–the only one of the five boys charged with Diaz’s murder whom students had not found until February. This key eyewitness said his childhood friend, Ariel Gomez, is guilty of the murder for which he was convicted. Read the full story here. Find out how students tracked him down here.
Students track down witnesses–who never testified–who say police persuaded them to identify Gomez as the shooter. Gomez alleges one of the lead detectives on his case beat a false confession out of him. That same detective has been accused of manipulating witnesses and coercing confessions in dozens of other cases. Read the full story here.
The Donald Watkins Case
Six Medill students supported by the Medill Innocence Project obtained medical records never raised at trial that call into question whether a Chicago man convicted of murder in 2007 could have committed the crime. Students tracked down key eyewitness, a known drug addict who gave conflicting statements about the night of the crime. Read the story here.