A woman who served 27 years of a life sentence for her husband's murder -- despite not being present when he was killed -- was among 87 people granted clemency by Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday.
Peggy Jo Jackson left the Logan Correctional Center on Friday and headed to South Carolina, where she'll live with her sister and mother and complete her parole, said Erica Nichols-Cook, an attorney with the Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois-Springfield.
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She called Quinn's executive order "a victory for all innocent women that have suffered from serious domestic abuse."
Jackson, 57, was in shock when she got the news, Nichols-Cook said.
"I think she was just so overwhelmed," Nichols-Cook said. "She'd been waiting for this for a long time."
Attorneys say Jackson's husband physically and sexually abused her for years. After a week of particularly horrific abuse in 1986, Jackson's brother confronted her husband, William Jackson, at the couple's farmhouse in a rural area near Mount Vernon in southern Illinois.
Though witnesses testified Peggy Jo Jackson had left the home with her children before the killing, she was convicted along with her brother the following year.
According to Nichols-Cook, prosecutors argued the siblings had conspired to kill William Jackson and that Peggy Jo did nothing to stop it. A judge told her she'd taken the life of "a good provider."
Nichols-Cook said the case shows how far society has come in its understanding of domestic violence and the treatment of its victims.
"If this case was tried today, she would never have been convicted," she said.
The Illinois Innocence Project has been working on Jackson's case for four years, and the Illinois Prisoner Review Board heard it in October.
Quinn commuted Jackson's sentence to time served. She also was granted a request to serve her parole out of state.
Jackson declined through her attorneys to be interviewed.
Nichols-Cook said Jackson has limited interaction with her four children, and her brother died in prison a few years ago. But she has many cousins and nephews, Nichols-Cook said, and Jackson was looking forward to spending Easter with them.
Quinn also denied 135 clemency petitions on Friday. According to his spokeswoman, the governor has acted on 2,459 clemency petitions since he took office, granting 929 and denying 1,530.
The petitions are part of a backlog of more than 2,500 cases accumulated during the administration of now-imprisoned Gov. Rod Blagojevich.