Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday continued to whittle down the list of those seeking clemency before he leaves office, granting clemency to 102 people, including posthumous pardons for three abolitionists convicted of harboring slaves more than a century ago.
Those granted a pardon will be allowed to ask the court to clear their criminal conviction from the record, which often aids in searching for a job.
Most of those granted a pardon by Quinn, a Democrat who was defeated in November, were charged for offenses ranging from theft to drug possession, robbery and burglary.
But three of those on the list received posthumous clemency for their fight against slavery and involvement in the Underground Railroad.
Richard Eells and Julius and Samuel Willard had all been convicted of "harboring and secreting a slave" in 1843. While Illinoisans voted to abolish slavery in 1824, state and federal law prohibited harboring or assisting runaway slaves in free states.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon led the clemency effort on behalf of the abolitionists after encouragement from state historians.
"These early warriors for freedom put everything on the line to help their fellow man, and their civil disobedience paved the way for civil rights," Quinn said. "Clearing their criminal records 171 years later shows how far we have come, but reminds us all that we should fight injustice wherever we find it."
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley announced Wednesday that he would commute the sentences of Maryland's four remaining death-row inmates to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The decision came nearly two years after the legislature repealed capital punishment in Maryland at O'Malley's urging, and three weeks before O'Malley, a Democrat, will complete his second and final term in office. He is considering running for president.
Maryland's repeal of capital punishment did not apply to prisoners already on death row. There were five such prisoners when the legislation took effect; one has since died of natural causes.