Jenner & Block

Firm Wins Certificates of Innocence for Pro Bono Client

Jenner & Block recently achieved outstanding results for a pro bono client.  Prior to the firm’s involvement in his case, Marcus Borne had been convicted twice of Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon (AUUW) and once of Unlawful Use of a Weapon by a Felon (UUWF) and in total had served more than three-and-a-half years in prison.  Following the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision in People v. Aguilar, declaring unconstitutional the portion of the AUUW statute under which he had been twice convicted, Mr. Borne sought to have his convictions vacated and to obtain certificates of innocence.  While at the Leighton (Cook County) Criminal Courthouse on another matter, Partner Bradley M. Yusim saw Mr. Borne representing himself pro se and offered to assist him.  Associate LaRue L. Robinson joined the team shortly thereafter.

In November 2015, with the two AUUW convictions vacated, the team filed a petition for certificates of innocence on Mr. Borne’s behalf.  The State opposed the petition on the ground that, although his AUUW convictions were vacated, Mr. Borne was ineligible for a certificate of innocence because he could have been convicted of violating other portions of the statute that remained constitutional after Aguilar – namely, being found with a gun while under the age of 21 and without a valid Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card at the time of his arrest.   

On February 24, 2016, Mr. Robinson argued the petition before Cook County Court Criminal Division Presiding Judge LeRoy Martin.  Responding to the State’s argument,  he argued that Mr. Borne was never indicted for the other crimes and that the probable cause for his arrest was not based on his age or whether he had a valid FOID card.  Additionally, Mr. Robinson argued that the certificate of innocence statute, by its plain language, focuses solely on the conviction for which the petitioner was “incarcerated,” not charges for which he “could have been” incarcerated.  At the end of the hearing, Chief Judge Martin agreed with Mr. Robinson’s arguments and granted Mr. Borne a certificate of innocence related to his second AUUW conviction.  As a result of this victory, Mr. Borne will have an easier time finding a job and housing, and is eligible for up to $85,000 in compensation through the Court of Claims.

On March 3, 2016, Mr. Yusim and Mr. Robinson obtained another victory for their client when the court vacated Mr. Borne’s UUWF conviction, which was based on the now-vacated AUUW convictions as predicate felonies.  Mr. Borne will now petition for another certificate of innocence.