As the associate editor of The Megaphone, sophomore Jayden Beatty attended a conference last year and came home to campus with an idea.

After attending a conference seminar on the Medill Justice Project—an award winning investigative journalism organization founded at Northwestern University in 1999 which seeks to examine potentially wrongful convictions and advocate for the truth—Beatty began communicating via email and Skype with Alec Klein, director of the project.

The two quickly developed a partnership, creating Southwestern’s own Justice Project, investigating and reporting on murder cases where there is reason to believe that someone has been wrongly convicted.

Southwestern’s Justice Project is currently researching Austin murder cases that are believed to fit the profile of a wrongful conviction due to lack of evidence or other factors. The Justice Project’s first case will take place in January 2015.

“Although we advocate for the truth, we do not legally get involved in the case,” says Beatty. “We journalistically report on the investigation meaning that at the end of the investigation our report will be a published article available for attorneys if they wish to pursue legal action. The Medill Justice Project will partner with a local publication to publish the work that both Southwestern and Northwestern students contribute to.”  

Students who join the Project will be trained by Beatty in the basics of journalism and reporting and through workshops hosted by The Megaphone. It is the hope of the Project coordinators that all students involved complete the investigation with experience in journalistic writing, reporting, interviewing and a general knowledge of the justice system. Everyone is also guaranteed a byline on the published work. 

Beatty says, “I hope to utilize all areas of campus for the Project in one way or another. One of those ways is getting help in establishing the SU Justice Project (SUJP) as a brand that can be recognizable to the public. This will help us get information for potential cases sent to us. Right now, I’m looking for students involved in art or marketing that would be willing to create a logo for us and help get the Project’s name out there to rally support. As of now we expect to investigate one case per year and will do our own individual case without a partnership the 2015-2016 school year.”

The Southwestern Justice Project is now officially a member of the Journalism Justice Network, a group of five justice projects located around the world.

by Daniella A. Barrera, class of 2016