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Parole granted to innocent man, but conviction stigma remains

In November 2016, James McClurkin was released from prison after 43 years. He was convicted of a 1973 murder. When he gained his freedom, it was through parole.

McClurkin is virtually unemployable, not only because he has a murder conviction on his record, but after 40 years in prison, he has no employable skills. So what is the problem with this justice? He didn't do the crime. 

Freedom but not exoneration

The parole board granted parole because the Chester County Sheriff stated that McClurkin and his co-defendant in the crime were innocent. One of the key witnesses in the original trial confessed to the murder. The sheriff confirmed evidence existed that implicated this witness as the killer.

However, parole is not a pardon, nor an exoneration. It is simply freedom from prison. McClurkin still carries the stigma of a conviction. He cannot vote and does not have access to public housing due to his conviction, even though he is innocent.

McClurkin's case is currently under review by a judge to determine whether the police and prosecutors botched the case. It is possible if McClurkin had a better lawyer when he was convicted that he might have been found innocent, instead of sitting in jail for 43 years for a crime that he did not convict. His current attorneys are attempting to get the conviction vacated. 

The need for reliable counsel

McClurkin's case demonstrates the importance of good counsel when facing criminal charges. The courts have convicted innocent people, even though they have maintained their innocence.

Once a conviction is on your record, it can be challenging to find employment. You may lose your 2nd Amendment rights and your professional license. Having an advocate on your side is one of the best ways to ensure that your story is heard. McClurkin said "...for so many years nobody believed me. These lawyers, they are the first people to listen to me." Do not put yourself in a position where you are facing prison time for a crime you did not commit. 

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