Friday, August 05, 2005

EDITORIAL: Backlog of pardons on Guv's desk

The Chicago Tribune (Aug 5) ran a lead editorial highlighting the suffering of individuals in line for pardons from Governor Blago.

Many pardons are not deserved, long shot attempts by people with serious criminal records and little proof of innocence. However, there are a lot of people who richly deserve pardons. Many were wrongfully convicted by a flawed judicial system. The pardon is their only avenue to the full productive lives they deserve. Without it, they cannot get in certain schools, cannot get jobs, and are banned from many rights of citizenship.

I know something of this corrupted system that has left so many lives in limbo. I hired a young Asian several years ago. He was railroaded into a drug conviction. Lawyers reviewing his case were appalled that he would go to prison boot camp without proper legal representation. They said his case should have been thrown out of court. However, his court appointed lawyer never even asked for a dismissal.

With little evidence to convict him, the prosecutors have this then 17-year-old lad just a few minutes to cop a plea -- six months boot camp or 17 years hard time. His attorney told him to take the bargain or he would go to jail for a long time regardless of his innocence or guilt.

You should know before his arrest, he was a top student and continued after boot camp to have a distinguished academic record -- graduated with honors. He is a hard worker. Devoted to family. Nothing in his life, before or after, would support his alleged criminal charge. It was bogus. There is a lot more to this young man's story --- and it all reaffirms his innocence and goodness.

This should have been a no brainer in terms of a pardon. He is supported by many distinguished people. His case has been brought before the Governor personally. I had two conversations with the Governor. In the first, he indicated a likelihood of a pardon based on the facts. In the second discussion, the Governor actually thought he had pardoned the young man. He turned to an aide and told him to have the young man's paperwork on his desk right away.

This has gone on for almost four years, most of the time the case buried in the offices of the Governor. For almost 9 years, this young man could not go to pharmacy school. He could not get jobs in the computer field -- his course of study. Most employers ask about felony convictions, and with it being an employers market, on black mark terminates the interview.

How long should he have to wait?

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