Today Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich pardoned Michael Evans, Paul Terry and Dana Holland — clients of Northwestern University School of Law’s Center on Wrongful Convictions — based on innocence, following the men’s earlier release from long prison sentences for crimes they did not commit.
“These pardons will make a big difference in these men’s lives,” said Karen Daniel, assistant clinical professor at the School of Law and an attorney at the Center on Wrongful Convictions. “These are the first official declarations of their innocence. They will allow the men to file for statutory compensation, and their criminal records will be expunged.”
Blagojevich issued four pardons today, including one for Lafonso Rollins, the first pardons for wrongful convictions during his tenure as governor.
“In a way, the ends of criminal cases are anticlimactic,” Daniel said. “Clients get exonerated, sentences get set aside and charges are dropped by prosecutors with no further comments. These pardons wrap up the criminal cases in such a meaningful way. The highest elected official of the state offers closure to the long, devastating legal battles, finally saying, ‘you are innocent.’ “
Michael Evans and Paul Terry, convicted as teenagers in the killing of 9-year-old Lisa Cabassa, were freed from prison sentences of 300 to 400 years in May 2003 after spending 27 years in jail.
Dana Holland was convicted in 1995 of attempted murder and armed robbery and in 1997 was convicted of sexual assault, while his alleged accomplice, his uncle, was acquitted. After he spent 10 years in prison, Holland was exonerated of the sexual assault by DNA testing in January 2003, and in June 2003, a Cook County judge found him not guilty of the remaining crimes.
For more information on the Center on Wrongful Convictions, go to www.law.northwestern.edu/wrongful convictions/