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March 3, 2011

The latest news on the (soon-to-end) uncertainty of the death penalty in Illinois

The AP has this lengthy new story about the death penalty in the Prairie State, which is headlined "Ill. governor mulls bill to abolish death penalty."  Here are snippets:

Nearly a decade after a former governor dramatically cleared the state's death row, Gov. Pat Quinn will return Illinois to the center of the nation's death penalty debate in coming days when he decides whether to abolish executions in the state for good.

Quinn, who faces a March 18 deadline, has said his decision will be based on his conscience. But he has spent two months consulting with prosecutors, murder victims' families, death penalty opponents and religious leaders — including retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Sister Helen Prejean, the inspiration for the movie "Dead Man Walking" — as he weigh his options.

Personally, the Chicago Democrat brings a mixed record to the decision: Raised a Roman Catholic, he says he supports the death penalty when properly implemented. But he has upheld Illinois' moratorium on executions since taking office and holds many liberal views. He supports abortion rights and recently signed a bill legalizing civil unions for gay couples in Illinois....

While he has kept his deliberations close to the vest, some would be surprised if Quinn didn't take advantage of this chance to leave his mark on history by signing legislation ending capital punishment. He could take action on the bill as early as this week. "I will be very startled and disappointed if he doesn't sign it," said Dr. Quentin Young, a longtime friend of Quinn's who worked with him in the past on advocating for universal health care....

In 2009, New Mexico became the most recent state to repeal the death penalty, although new Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, a longtime prosecutor, wants to reinstate it. Illinois currently does not carry out executions because of an 11-year-old moratorium.

"I've heard from many, many people of good faith and good conscience on both sides of the issue. And I've tried to be very meticulous and writing down notes and studying those notes and books and e-mails. They've really spoken from the heart. I've been very proud of the people of Illinois," Quinn said Wednesday in Springfield.

The moratorium was imposed in 2000 by then-Republican Gov. George Ryan after the death sentences of 13 men were overturned. Ryan called the state's capital punishment system "haunted by the demon of error" and cleared death row shortly before leaving office in 2003 by commuting the sentences of 167 condemned inmates to life in prison.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, prosecutors and some victims' families have appealed directly to Quinn to veto the bill lawmakers passed in January. They contend new safeguards, including videotaped interrogations and easier access to DNA evidence, have since been put in place to prevent innocent people from being executed. Death penalty opponents have long argued there's no guarantee that won't happen....

As Quinn mulls his decision, one factor he has to consider is what to do with the 15 people already on death row.  Currently, offenders can still be sentenced to death although Illinois isn't carrying out executions because of the moratorium. 

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March 3, 2011 at 09:10 AM | Permalink


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It actually makes no practical difference if he signs it, since the real-world chances of an execution in Illinois even now are about the same as the real world chances of a clean government in Illinois.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 3, 2011 7:05:51 PM

Put a moratorium and suspend all transportation. All forms, including walking on the sidewalk produce the execution of 40,000 innocent people. These execution are quite gruesome, where metal chops up and crushes random body parts, out of nowhere, often with no mistake committed by the victim. Many victims linger in agony for hours before passing away from multiple crush injuries.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 3, 2011 11:06:21 PM

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