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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Friday, October 17, 2008

First filings made for Ill. innocence petitions

CHICAGO - Lawyers at Northwestern University on Wednesday filed four petitions on behalf of exonerated former Illinois inmates, the first under a new law that would allow them to seek compensation from the state.

Under the law passed in September by the Illinois General Assembly, exonerees can apply to the county court of their conviction for compensation instead of waiting for a pardon from Gov. Rod Blagojevich. That county court may grant a "certificate of innocence."

"People would still like to receive the innocence pardons from the governor," said Karen Daniel, an assistant law professor at Northwestern University School of Law. The school's Bluhm Legal Clinic announced the filings on Wednesday.

"This wouldn't replace that process. It's an alternative means of getting the compensation," Daniel said.

Among the four filings Wednesday was one for Marlon Pendleton, 51, who is eligible for seven years of compensation after he was exonerated on DNA evidence from convictions of aggravated criminal sexual assault and armed robbery. Pendleton said he's had trouble finding a job since his release.

"Even though I was exonerated I still have to explain to them (about) my employment gap," said Pendleton, who would like to get a job at a steel plant. "It's about having some dignity and being able to hold your head up high, feel good about yourself." [Mark Godsey]

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