Honors Journalism & Criminal Justice
IDSC 480-0 CRN Honors Journalism & Criminal Justice
J-Term 2013 – Late AM or Early PM
Professors: Karen Boros and Joy Rikala
This course will examine the delicate relationship between members of the news media and those involved with the criminal justice system, often at odds with each other. Using a case study model, the course will be based on the 1977 murder of Duluth heiress Elizabeth Congdon and her night nurse Velma Pietila.
Congdon was smothered with a pillow as she slept in her Lake Superior mansion. Pietila was bludgeoned to death on the stairway. Marjorie and Roger Caldwell, Condon’s adopted daughter and son-in-law were both arrested and charged with the crimes. Marjorie was acquitted but Roger was convicted of the murders and served jail time until the Minnesota Supreme Court overturned his conviction. He later admitted to the murders and committed suicide. To this day, Marjorie has continued to attract attention with charges of arson, fraud and forgery as well being a suspect in two other deaths of male companions.
This criminal case is an excellent example of the news media and the criminal justice system at cross-purposes. Caldwell’s trial was moved from Duluth to Brainerd after his attorney argued it was impossible for him to receive a fair trial in the community where his mother-in-law lived like royalty and the case had been given extensive coverage by the local media.
Two excellent books are available that document the case, investigation and media coverage. Students will be assigned to read them both and meet at least one of the authors.