Rob Warden, an award-winning legal affairs journalist and executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern University School of Law, began his presentation Friday by telling the 19th century story of the first documented wrongful conviction and the startling turn of events that narrowly kept two innocent men from hanging.
Warden spoke in the Crimson and Gold Ballroom in conjunction with the appearance of Sister Helen Prejean, author of “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States” Friday evening and with the Dead Man Walking Theatre production April 26-29.
Warden, a cousin of Brad Cameron (History, Philosophy and Social Science), was brought to campus through the efforts of social work students.
Originally from Carthage, Mo., Warden was an investigative reporter, foreign correspondent, and editor at the Chicago Daily News before founding the Chicago Lawyer magazine in 1978. As editor and publisher of the magazine during the 1980s, Warden exposed more than a score of wrongful convictions in Illinois, including cases in which six innocent men had been sentenced to death.
He shared some of those stories with his Pittsburg audience, noting the many ways wrongful convictions can happen. He used those arguments to make the case for the abolishment.
Warden has won more than 50 journalism awards, including the Medill School of Journalism’s John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest Magazine Journalism, two American Civil Liberties Union James McGuire Awards, five Peter Lisagor Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Norval Morris Award from the Illinois Academy of Criminology. In 2003, he was inducted into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame.
He is co-author, with Steven A. Drizin, of “True Stories of False Confessions,” and with David Protess, of “A Promise of Justice” on the pardons of the Ford Heights Four, and “Gone in the Night,” on the reversal of David Dowaliby’s conviction.