Two recent exonerations in Cook County show just how difficult it can be to clear your name following a wrongful conviction. When we left off in our last post, we were talking about Daniel Andersen's situation.
Andersen had been convicted of murder and attempted assault more than 30 years ago; he served 27 years of his 55-year sentence and, because of the attempted rape charge, was required to register as a sex offender on his release. DNA testing recently cleared him of involvement in the crime. That exoneration, however, is just the first step as he works to re-establish himself in the community.
Andersen needs a certificate of innocence if he wants his criminal record expunged. Remember, criminal background checks will show arrests, even if the charges were dropped or the defendant acquitted. Without an expungement, potential employers and landlords will have ready access to his criminal record.
The magic word with a certificate of innocence is "innocence." When the court issues a certificate of innocence, the certificate serves as proof that the petitioner is not just not guilty but innocent of all offenses associated with the petitioner's incarceration.
With the certificate of innocence in hand, Andersen may also seek compensation from the state for his wrongful conviction. Illinois made headlines nationwide in March when a wrongfully convicted man settled with a number of local governments for $20 million, the largest wrongful conviction settlement in the state's history.
Unfortunately, the certificate of innocence will not remove Andersen's name from the national registry of sex offenders. That is a separate process, also requiring a petition to the court. The certificate may serve as evidence to support the request, though.
Another exonerated man has not fared as well. We'll explain in our next post.
Chicago Tribune, "Cook County prosecutors won't try ex-inmate after conviction dropped," Steve Schmadeke, Aug. 13, 2015
Smith-Hurd Illinois Compiled Statutes Annotated, 735 ILCS 5/2-702, via WestlawNext