Moushey announces vision to right wrongful convictions at CMU
Bill Moushey was once a reporter who just covered bad guys.
“For the first 20 years of my career, I basically put people in jail,” he said.
His work as a reporter includes covering the first impeachment of former sitting Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Rolf Larsen and the conviction of former Pittsburgh City Council president, among other notable investigations detailing organized crime. During his time working as an investigative reporter with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he noticed the injustice present within the justice system.
“I started seeing horrible things happen to people of color, people in poverty, and those who could not receive adequate legal representation,” he said. “They would just get gobbled up by the federal government.”
Today, Moushey aims to bring Point Park University’s Innocence Institute, which he founded in 2001 to help those wrongfully convicted in western Pennsylvania, to Carnegie Mellon. Last Monday in Baker Hall’s Giant Eagle Auditorium, Moushey talked about his work with the institute and his plans for its future.
Working as investigative journalists at Point Park, Moushey and his students have been responsible for freeing 17 wrongly convicted individuals in 10 years.
Both a nonprofit investigative journalism program and a university curriculum at Point Park, the Innocence Institute’s approach has two primary focuses: the students and social injustice. The institute’s objective is to aid students in navigating the ropes of the criminal justice system while simultaneously making a social difference.
“There is no constituency for people who are wrongfully convicted,” Moushey said. “Nobody wants to hear them.”
Since its inception 14 years ago, the Innocence Institute and its journalists have received numerous awards including regional and national awards, from the National Society of Professional Journalists.
Before founding the institute, Moushey used his observations of the justice system led him to publish in the Post-Gazette the investigative series Protected Witnesses, which examines the misconduct involved with the federal witness protection program, and Win at All Costs, hard-hitting documentation of overzealous officials breaking the law in their efforts to enforce it.
At Carnegie Mellon, Moushey spoke of past cases and his vision of establishing a multidisciplinary Innocence Institute at Carnegie Mellon.
“At CMU, we would be on the forefront of advances that change the way wrongly convicted cases are viewed,” Moushey said.
He encouraged the involvement of students from all fields.
“This is without a doubt the best experience that [Point Park] ever offered. No classes even come close to the Innocence Institute,” said senior Point Park mass communications major Kaitlyn Castelli, who has worked closely with Moushey and the Innocence Institute since her first year of college.
A native of Canton, Ohio and an expert on crime and punishment issues, Moushey is a nationally recognized journalist who earned his bachelor of arts in journalism from Kent State University and his master’s of science in criminal justice administration from Point Park. Moushey is a recipient of the 1997 National Press Club’s Freedom of Information Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1997 for his expose of an out-of-control federal witness protection program.
For Moushey, the years of effort pay off the moment when the wrongfully convicted walk out of prison.
During his talk, he narrated an experience in which his client, after being released, looked him in the eye and said, “You guys are my heroes.”