Center on Wrongful Convictions
Forty innocent men and women have been exonerated due to the efforts of the Center on Wrongful Convictions (CWC) since the Center was launched in April 1999, including twenty-seven CWC clients and thirteen codefendants of CWC clients. More about the CWC...
Pardon These Men, Governor Quinn!
The following CWC clients have pending petitions for executive clemency and are seeking pardons from Governor Pat Quinn before he leaves office in January 2015.
Randy Steidl is an innocent former death row inmate who served 17 years in prison before a federal court threw out his conviction in 2003 and state prosecutors dropped all charges in 2004. Steidl has been seeking a pardon based on innocence since 2002; his clemency petition has been passed over by three Governors and is undoubtedly the oldest one currently on Governor Quinn's desk. Steidl speaks internationally about innocence and the death penalty, and his efforts and testimony were central to the Illinois General Assembly's decision to repeal the death penalty in 2011. Indeed, he was present when Governor Quinn signed the death penalty abolition bill into law. In October 2013, Steidl's attorneys sent yet another appeal to the Governor to act on Steidl's clemency petition. The Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the State Journal-Register have all endorsed a pardon for Steidl, which would finally grant him the official recognition of his innocence that he deserves.
The Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune have both published pieces calling on Governor Quinn to pardon Robert Taylor, one of the Dixmoor Five released in 2011 after spending two decades wrongfully incarcerated for the sexual assault and murder of a 14-year-old girl. At the tender age of 15, Taylor was arrested, forced to falsely confess, and jailed for four years while awaiting trial. Just months before the trial finally commenced, Taylor made bond. He continued to attend his court dates, including the first five days of trial. But on that sixth day, the teenager couldn’t bring himself to return; he saw the disdainful looks in the jurors’ eyes and knew he was about to be wrongfully convicted. He hid out in a girlfriend’s house a few miles away while the jury rendered the verdict: guilty. When Taylor was caught just two months later, not only was he imprisoned for a rape and murder he did not do, but the State tacked on a felony conviction for violating bond. And while DNA finally vindicated him of the rape and murder convictions, the bond-jumping conviction remains. With a felony on his record, Taylor is hindered in his efforts to move forward with his life. After two decades of injustice in prison, the State of Illinois owes Robert Taylor a chance to start over. He should be pardoned for violating his bail bond while awaiting trial on the wrongful rape and murder charges.
Anthony Dansberry, a mentally challenged and illiterate man who signed a written confession to a murder (in River Forest, Illinois) he claims he did not commit, has been in prison for over 23 years. He is seeking his freedom through a clemency petition filed in 2010.
Anthony McKinney was an innocent man who was wrongfully convicted of a 1978 murder in Harvey, Illinois, and sentenced to life in prison. Only 18 at the time of the crime, McKinney spent the next 35 years in prison before he died at the age of 53, on August 27, 2013, at Dixon Correctional Center. At the time of his death, McKinney's post-conviction petition based on actual innocence had been pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County for almost five years. Although he never got the chance to prove his innocence in court, on July 10, 2014, McKinney presented his case for a pardon based on newly discovered evidence of actual innocence to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. The matter is currently pending before Governor Pat Quinn.
Darby Tillis remembered
The Center on Wrongful Convictions mourns the passing of Darby Tillis, one of the first Illinois death row exonerees. After his release, he never stopped fighting for justice and against the death penalty. Read more in the Chicago Sun-Times.
Conviction Integrity Conference
Thank you to all who participated in and attended our Conviction Integrity Conference on October 29, 2014. Over 400 people registered for the event, and the speakers and panelists shared thoughts and stories about causes of wrongful convictions, how to conduct conviction integrity review, and the human costs of convicting the innocent. Our event program, CLE materials, and event photos are available online.
The State of New York has vacated the convictions of David McCallum and Willie Stuckey on the motion of King’s County District Attorney Kenneth Thompson. McCallum, of the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, was freed after serving more than 29 years in prison for the October 1985 carjacking and abduction and murder of Nathan Blenner, of Queens. Stuckey was also exonerated, but tragically, he died in prison more than a decade ago at the age of 31. McCallum’s team included lawyers (Oscar Michelen of Cuomo, LLC, Laura Cohen of the Rutgers-Newark Law School’s Criminal and Youth Justice Clinic, and Steve Drizin of the CWC) and advocates from Innocence International, the Toronto-based innocence organization founded by the late Dr. Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and now run by his long-time friend Ken Klonsky. Read more about David's story here.
Jamie Lee Peterson
The State of Michigan has dropped all charges and CWC client Jamie Lee Peterson is released from prison after more than 17 years.