- Associated Press - Monday, January 12, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - In his final moments as Illinois governor, Pat Quinn commuted the sentences of six people, issued three executive orders, handed out some prestigious appointments and signed bills, a flurry of activity unveiled Monday as Gov. Bruce Rauner took office.

The commutations, in a list of 43 granted clemency petitions, included cutting or reducing prison time in higher profile cases, some held up in the courts for years. Quinn fully commuted the sentence of Tyrone Hood, who was convicted in the 1993 death of an Illinois Institute of Technology student, and Anthony Dansberry, who was imprisoned for the 1991 death of a 77-year-old woman.

Attorneys for Hood, a Menard Correctional Center inmate, maintain evidence pointed to someone else and said the commutation gave him a chance to clear his name. Cook County attorneys have re-examined the case.

“It gives an opportunity to live his life with his friends and family and loved ones,” said Gayle Horn of the University of Chicago’s Exoneration Project.

Much of the eleventh-hour action from Quinn, who didn’t attend Rauner’s inauguration, came minutes before Rauner, a Republican, took the oath. The Democrat signed ridesharing regulations, announced dozens of appointments and quietly pushed out executive orders on the minimum wage, tax returns and data - campaign issues he hit Rauner on. Earlier Monday, Quinn’s office said he wouldn’t issue medical marijuana licenses.

The appointments included an $85,900-a-year Prisoner Review Board seat to Tumia Romero, an assistant labor director and former aide to U.S. Rep. Danny Davis. Sean Vinck - who earned $120,000 as Illinois’ chief information officer - received a $20,000 Clean Energy Commission Foundation Board post. Human Services Secretary Michelle Saddler was appointed to the Teachers’ Retirement System board.

The last-minute appointments raised eyebrows, and most of the dozens named Monday still need Senate confirmation. Also, Rauner could remove them.

“We’ll see if the new governor wants to keep them,” Senate President John Cullerton said.

Quinn’s office didn’t publicly release the executive orders, but they were later posted online. One requires state vendors and subcontractors to pay a $10 minimum wage, which is higher than Illinois’ $8.25 rate. Another requires governors to make their individual income tax returns public annually on or before May 1. The third requires the state to make agency data publicly available through an online portal.

Rauner’s spokesman didn’t immediately have a comment.

Quinn hinted to The Associated Press last week that he would have a busy final day.

“You run as hard as you can the last 100 meters,” the former cross-country runner said. “I want to have a good kick at the end.”

He spent his final weeks slogging through clemency petitions, and acted on more than recent governors after inheriting a backlog. Overall, he considered nearly 5,000 and granted nearly 1,800 requests. He denied 3,133 including 119 Monday. Rauner inherits roughly 1,850 cases.

Quinn granted four immediate commutations, two reduced sentences and an innocence-based pardon. The granted petitions on Monday included:

-Dansberry, imprisoned in Dansville Correctional Center, had his sentence commuted. Attorneys said Dansberry, who couldn’t read, was coerced into signing a confession.

-Tammy Englerth, of Highland, was sentenced to 40 years in 2007 after pleading guilty to first-degree murder for setting her husband on fire. Quinn reduced her prison sentence with a 2025 release date.

-Howard Morgan, a railroad officer and former Chicago police officer, allegedly became uncooperative and fired a weapon during a 2005 traffic stop. However, attorneys say Chicago police shot him dozens of times. Morgan was acquitted of aggravated battery and discharging a weapon in 2007, retried and convicted of attempted murder. Quinn commuted his sentence.

-Johnnie Lee Savory was 15 when convicted of two 1977 Peoria murders. He won a new trial after an appeals court said his confession was coerced. He was convicted again in a trial that relied on testimony attorneys allege was later recanted. Quinn, who commuted Savory’s sentence in 2011, pardoned him.

-David Bates served 11 years in prison for murder, but was exonerated in 1994. He claimed officers under former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge’s command coerced a confession. Quinn issued an innocence-based pardon.

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Associated Press Political Writer John O’Connor contributed to this report.

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Follow Sophia Tareen at https://twitter.com/sophiatareen.

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