On April 13, 2016 I represented a client before the prison review board in his request for executive clemency. Executive clemency is the last form of potential relief available when a client wants to clear his record but is not eligible for expungement or sealing. In such a case the individual may request a pardon from the governor which, if granted, would authorize the individual to file a petition to expunge in Circuit Court. The procedures governing the executive clemency process are set forth in 730 ILCS 5/3-3-13. In Chicago the hearings are held at the Thompson Center. In my case there were 4 members of the prison review board presiding when I presented my petition. I proceeded by way of testimony through my client. I asked what I believed to be the most relevant questions and my client answered them honestly. When I was finished the board members had an opportunity to ask my client questions. In addition a representative from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office was present who argued against the petition and objected to clemency. I was advised by the administrator in the room that decisions have been taking approximately 2 years.
It is vital that when preparing a petition the attorney takes special note of all of the client’s background. My hearing went last and I had the benefit of watching the prison review board assess numerous other petitions. The board appears to take a holistic approach that goes far beyond the mere offense in which a pardon is sought. It is pivotal to express to the board why a pardon is needed and why a pardon is deserved. Prior to the commencement of the hearings one of the board members read a statement in which he reminded petitioners that they were not there to re-litigate old cases. In my opinion the board placed its greatest emphasis on rehabilitation and how the petitioner has turned his or her life around.