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Marlon Pendleton was released from an Illinois prison in 2006 after DNA evidence exonerated him in the sexual assault for which he was convicted in 1993. But nearly two years out of prison, Pendleton hasn’t been pardoned for the crime, nor can he gain access to the state’s compensation system for those who have been wrongly convicted. Like others who have been exonerated, Pendleton is caught in a lengthy backlog of pardon petitions awaiting the consideration of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. However, new state legislation intended to speed the process of getting certificates of innocence and compensation to those who have been wrongly imprisoned went into effect last month, and Pendleton may be one of the first to benefit from the change. The Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University’s School of Law is planning to file petitions on Wednesday for certificates of innocence on behalf of four people, including Pendleton, who have had their convictions overturned. They are the first such filings under the new law, which allows people who have served time in prison for a conviction that was later reversed, dismissed or set aside to petition for a certificate of innocence in circuit court rather than waiting for the governor to grant a pardon.

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