Lawyers at Northwestern University on Wednesday filed petitions on behalf of four exonerated former Illinois inmates, the first under a new law that would allow them to seek compensation from the state. Under the law, 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. “This wouldn’t replace that process. It’s an alternative means of getting the compensation.”
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. A certificate would make Pendleton eligible for job training and provide him with more than $100,000 in compensation. The Illinois General Assembly overrode Blagojevich’s veto of the legislation, making it law Sept. 22. Blagojevich has faced criticism for a backlog of hundreds of clemency petitions.