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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Gov. Rod Blagojevich pardons 22 people

Marcus Lyons was so bitter after leaving prison in 1991 that he tried to nail himself to a wooden cross outside the DuPage County Courthouse.

On Friday, two decades after he was convicted of a rape he did not commit, Lyons was one of 22 people pardoned by Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Lyons, 51, said he felt fortunate to have received clemency, knowing that a growing backlog has left hundreds of others waiting for decisions from the governor.

But Lyons, now living in Indiana, said he is still upset with police officers from Woodridge, where the crime took place in 1987. He said Friday's pardon can't return the one thing he wants most.

"You can never get your reputation back," he said.

Most of the other 21 people pardoned on Friday appeared to have already served short sentences for such crimes as burglary, forgery or robbery, with a few more serious cases of battery.

The "pardon based on innocence" allows Lyons to apply for about $85,000 in compensation for the 3 years he served, said his attorney, Jane Raley of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law.

But perhaps more important, she said, "it begins to address the enormous suffering he's endured."

On Nov. 30, 1987, a 29-year-old woman who lived in a Woodridge apartment complex told police she had been raped. She erroneously identified Lyons as her attacker. [Mark Godsey]

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