SPRINGFIELD — In one of his final acts before leaving office, Gov. Pat Quinn late Friday pardoned a man whose conviction for the murder of an Illinois State University student was overturned after he'd served 13 years behind bars.
The governor's action in the long-running saga of Alan Beaman's legal troubles was among more than 230 clemency decisions made as Quinn enters the final weekend of his tenure as Illinois' chief executive.
Beaman, 42, was formally declared innocent in connection with the 1993 death of Jennifer Lockmiller of Decatur during court proceedings two years ago.
Since then, the Rockford native — who was a student at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington at the time of Lockmiller's death — has sued police and prosecutors involved in his case, seeking monetary damages.
Beaman was at an appointment with his daughter when he started receiving multiple messages to call his wife, Gretchen.
“I answered the phone and got the good news from her. I’m very excited to have an exclamation point on the process that continues to reaffirm what we knew and others need to know,” Beaman said Friday evening.
Beaman is hopeful the pardon will help with the unending need to explain the 13-year gap in his life.
“More than once I’ve had to bite my tongue when people ask what I did before my current job. This is another bump in favor of my credibility in all this,” he said.
The Beaman case was among the more high-profile cases acted upon by Quinn on Friday. In all, he granted 232 and denied 262 clemency petitions.
Quinn's office said the Beaman clemency was the governor's first pardon based on innocence. Quinn offered no further details for his action.
Karen Daniel, one of Beaman’s lawyers with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, said the vast majority of other pardons are given to people convicted of crimes, but granted clemency as a form of forgiveness for their wrongdoing.
“Alan Beaman’s pardon is different. This is the governor, the highest elected official in the State of Illinois, saying he is convinced Alan is innocent. That’s a very powerful statement for Alan to have as he continues his life,” Daniel said after the governor's decision was handed down.
Daniel, who has handled many post-conviction cases, said it's the first time a client has won both a certificate of innocence and a pardon.
The pardon is rewarding for the lawyers who have worked on Beaman’s case for more than 17 years.
“Alan Beaman was really abused by the system. He was robbed of so much he’ll never get back," Daniel said.
Beaman was released from prison in 2008 after the Illinois Supreme Court reversed a McLean County jury verdict, declaring the state's case against the then-20-year-old college student tenuous.
Prosecutors alleged Beaman drove from Rockford to Normal to strangle his former girlfriend and returned home before his mother could detect his absence.
After his release from prison, he spent the next five years trying to clear his name, finally winning a certificate of innocence in 2013 after McLean County prosecutors announced they were dropping their opposition to Beaman's petition.
Under state law, Beaman's public record will be expunged of his conviction. And, the move allows him to seek damages from the state for his 13 years in prison.
Beaman works as a design engineer for a tool company in Rockford. Since his release, he has been married and has two daughters.
He said Friday he is hopeful more pardons will follow for other inmates — both those who are innocent and those who have served their time and been rehabilitated.
Attorney Jeff Urdangen, who has been with Beaman’s case through all its phases, called Quinn's action bittersweet.
"Of course, no matter how many official declarations of his innocence he (Beaman) receives, nothing can return to him the 13 years of wrongful incarceration he endured," Urdangen said in a statement.