Gov. J.B. Pritzker has pardoned a man 30 years after the first of two wrongful convictions, the Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield announced Friday.
Norman Propst had been convicted of a robbery in 1990 based on a “notoriously unreliable eyewitness identification” and then convicted of workplace theft in 1997, though his managers said no crime occurred and one even resigned in support of Propst, the Innocence Project said in a statement.
In the first instance, Propst took a plea deal and served several months in prison because his mother was seriously ill and he otherwise faced a 15-year sentence. In the second case, Propst was accused of stealing a book from the Borders bookstore where he worked and pleaded guilty to avoid further court proceedings.
“We are thrilled that the Governor has granted clemency to Norman Propst for these wrongful convictions,” said Propst’s attorney, John Hanlon, who is executive director of the Illinois Innocence Project.
“So many unjust convictions have occurred to innocent young Black men in Chicago. Unfortunately, Norman suffered for that reality. We are, however, so proud of the unselfish and successful way that he has devoted himself to his community since he left Chicago. It’s really quite a story.”
Propst, who co-founded the Atlanta chapter of Black Lives Matter and the Alliance for Black Lives, now works as a community organizer.
“The important thing in Norman’s case is not just about the time he served; rather, it’s about the fact that he now will have the ability to go to college, get a degree in social work and then get a job helping kids improve their lives,” Hanlon said.
“That has been his life’s dream. He could not do any of those things with these convictions hanging over him. He has already done incredible work in his community, but now he can greatly enhance that without the legal and practical burdens posed by the wrongful convictions.”