The men and women unlucky enough to enough to have been convicted of crimes they didn't commit -- and lucky enough to prove it -- had a champion in former Illinois Governor George H. Ryan.
But they don't have one in current governor Rod Blagojevich.
In a reversal of political stereotypes, the Republican Ryan, who left office in 2003, was sensitive in the way his successor, the Democrat Blagojevich, hasn't been to the predicaments in which the exonerated typically find themselves upon leaving prison: impoverished and, still officially classified as ex-cons, veritably blacklisted from employment opportunity.
Ryan, and the other Republicans who held the governor's office for more than two decades before he took over in 1999, promptly and routinely approved pardons based on innocence for the exonerated, qualifying them for state compensation of a little more than $1,000 a month for the time they unjustly languished behind bars. Blagojevich, in contrast, has been steadfast in his refusal to clear the way for what not only is a legal entitlement but also a matter of simple human decency.
Finally, the General Assembly got fed up and passed a bill providing an alternative to waiting for Blago -- allowing the exonerated to petition state trial courts for certificates of innocence, qualifying them for the compensation.
Blagojevich, true to form, vetoed the legislation. But thanks to unrelenting efforts of the bill's chief sponsors -- Mary Flowers in the House and William Delgado in the Senate -- the veto has been resoundingly overridden. It became law Monday.