SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) –– In his final moments as Illinois governor, Pat Quinn commuted the sentences of six people, signed a batch of bills and handed out some prestigious appointments, his administration announced Monday during the inauguration festivities of Gov. Bruce Rauner.
The commutations, in a list of 43 granted clemency petitions, included cutting or reducing prison time in six higher-profile cases, some held up in the courts for years. Quinn fully commuted the sentence of Tyrone Hood, who was convicted in the 1993 death of an Illinois Institute of Technology student, and Anthony Dansberry, who was imprisoned for the 1991 death of a 77-year-old woman.
Attorneys for Hood, a Menard Correctional Center inmate, maintain evidence pointed to someone else and said the commutation gave him a chance to clear his name. Cook County prosecutors have re-examined the case.
“It gives an opportunity to live his life with his friends and family and loved ones,” said Gayle Horn of the University of Chicago’s Exoneration Project.
The flurry of eleventh-hour activity from Quinn, who didn’t attend Rauner’s inauguration, came minutes before Rauner, a Republican, took the oath. The Democrat signed ridesharing regulations, said he wouldn’t issue medical marijuana licenses and made appointments minutes before Rauner took the oath.
The appointments included an $85,900-a-year Prisoner Review Board seat to Tumia Romero, an assistant labor director and former aide to U.S. Rep. Danny Davis. Sean Vinck — who earned $120,000 as Illinois’ chief information officer — received a $20,000 Clean Energy Commission Foundation Board post. Human Services Secretary Michelle Saddler was appointed to the Teachers’ Retirement System board.
The last-minute appointments raised eyebrows and most of the dozens named Monday still need Senate confirmation. Also, Rauner could remove them. Romero said she was qualified because of work on ex-offender programs and legislation. A number of Quinn staffers left the office Monday and were unavailable for comment.
“We’ll see if the new governor wants to keep them,” Senate President John Cullerton told reporters.
Quinn hinted at a busy final day, telling The Associated Press last week he was governor until midday on Monday.
“You run as hard as you can the last 100 meters,” Quinn, a former cross country runner, said Friday. “I want to have a good kick at the end.”
Quinn, ousted in November, spent his final weeks slogging through clemency petitions. He acted on more than recent governors, after inheriting a backlog of thousands from predecessor, ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Overall, he considered nearly 5,000 and granted nearly 1,800 requests. He denied 3,133 including 119 Monday. Rauner inherits roughly 1,850 cases.
Quinn granted four immediate commutations, two reduced sentences and an innocence-based pardon.
The other petitions Quinn acted on Monday included:
–Dansberry, imprisoned in Dansville Correctional Center, had his sentence commuted. Attorneys said Dansberry, who couldn’t read, was coerced into confessing and witness testimony didn’t put him at the scene in River Forest.
–Tammy Englerth, of Highland, was sentenced to 40 years in 2007 after pleading guilty to first-degree murder for dousing her husband with gasoline and setting him on fire. Quinn reduced her prison sentence with a 2025 release date.
–Howard Morgan, a railroad officer and former Chicago police officer, allegedly became uncooperative and fired a weapon during a 2005 traffic stop. However, attorneys say Chicago police shot him more than two dozen times. Morgan was acquitted of aggravated battery and discharging a weapon in 2007, retried and convicted of attempted murder. Attorneys say race played a role. Morgan is black, the officers white. Quinn commuted his sentence.
–Johnnie Lee Savory was 15 when convicted of two 1977 Peoria murders. He won a new trial after an appeals court said his confession was coerced. He was convicted again in a trial that relied on testimony attorneys allege was later recanted. Quinn, who commuted Savory’s sentence in 2011, pardoned him Monday.
–David Bates served 11 years in prison for murder, but was exonerated in 1994. He claimed officers under former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge’s command coerced him into confessing. Quinn pardoned him based on innocence.
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