« Another July 4th open thread seeking comments on liberty and freedom in the USA | Main | "The Double Edged Sword of Prison Video Visitation: Claiming to Keep Families Together While Furthering the Aims of the Prison Industrial Complex" »

July 5, 2014

High-profile ex-con (who is also an ex-Gov) eager to keep pushing for death penalty abolition

As reported in this AP article, headlined "Ex-Illinois governor Ryan wants to continue anti-death penalty work," the death penalty abolitionist community now has another high-profile advocate newly free to preach the gospel. Here are some excerpts from an interesting article:

George Ryan, an ex-Illinois governor and now an ex-convict, says he’d like to re-engage with the cause he left behind when he went to prison in 2007 — campaigning for the end of the death penalty in the U.S.  “Americans should come to their senses,” Ryan said this week, in an hourlong interview at his kitchen table.

Newly free to speak after a year of federal supervision that followed his more than five years in prison for corruption, Ryan appeared to have recovered some of his old voice and feistiness, in contrast to the subdued figure that emerged a year ago from the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., and ducked briefly into a Chicago halfway house.

At his home in Kankakee, south of Chicago, the Republican, 80, held forth on capital punishment, the state of American politics and the criminal justice system — though not the difficult details of his own corruption case.

He said he’d like to spend some time on the national circuit to encourage other states to follow Illinois’ lead in abolishing capital punishment.  That move came in 2011 and stemmed from Ryan’s decision to clear death row in 2003. While he was treated as a champion by death penalty opponents at the time, he acknowledged some public figures now may have trouble openly associating with him. “I’m an ex-convict,” he said. “People tend to frown on that.”

Ryan, who was governor from 1999 to 2003, was indicted in 2003 and convicted in 2006 on multiple corruption counts, including racketeering and tax fraud.  He said he does not plan to discuss the details of the criminal case — to which he always maintained his innocence — though he might in an autobiography he is writing....

He also lashed out at the U.S. justice system, calling it “corrupt” and bluntly contending that the fervor with which he was prosecuted was due in part to his nationally prominent campaign to end the death penalty.  “It put a target on my back when I did what I did,” he said, adding that even prison guards derided and mocked him. “It certainly didn’t win me any favor with the federal authorities.”

It’s unclear whether Ryan’s re-emergence on the public scene will be welcomed.  But at least one former federal prosecutor balked at Ryan’s contention that he may have been singled out because of his death penalty stance. “It’s absurd,” said Jeff Cramer, a former U.S. attorney in Chicago, noting that four of Illinois’ last seven governors have gone to prison.  “It wasn’t his political stand that made him a target. It is what he did. ... He’s trying to rewrite history.”...

[Ryan] also expressed some sympathy for his Democratic successor, Rod Blagojevich, saying the 14-year prison sentence the former governor is serving in Colorado for trying to sell President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat and other pay-to-play schemes was excessive.  The sentence is under appeal. “I wasn’t a fan” of Blagojevich, he said. “Irrespective, his sentence was out of line.”

But Ryan displayed the most passion while discussing capital punishment. Once a fervent advocate of the death penalty, he said he agonized about approving the last execution in Illinois before he issued a ban in 2000. “I killed the guy,” he said of the man who had raped, kidnapped and murdered a 21-year-old Elmhurst woman. “You can’t feel good about that.”

As he contemplated commuting all death sentences in 2003, he said he felt increasing pressure not to do it, including from one influential politician whom he remembers asking him directly not to spare one man convicted of murdering a friend’s daughter. After the commutations, Ryan said the politician never spoke to him again.

July 5, 2014 at 11:12 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference High-profile ex-con (who is also an ex-Gov) eager to keep pushing for death penalty abolition:


Anyone can be prosecuted for the three felonies all of commit every day. So, criticizing his conviction is unfair.

I am criticizing his intellect and judgement. He was afraid of executing an innocent person. Yet, none of the condemned cast any doubt about their innocence. Aside from the counter argument of stopping all transportation including walking because pedestrians are killed walking, his decision was not even consistent with his reasoning.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 5, 2014 11:41:24 AM

Well, if you want to characterize this as "the gospel" then I can agree. The Sixth Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Kill. There was no "exception" sent down from God for the People of the Great State of Texas to kill. No exception entitled: "Y'all Can."

Ryan is now 80. I suggest that he be given an ear. He has some experiences that most of us do not have.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jul 5, 2014 4:23:48 PM

The ancient Hebrew, You shall not murder. The bible is full of mass killing, down to the last kitten, so clearly the death penalty is strongly endorsed by the Bile.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 6, 2014 1:16:15 AM

The death penalty is not working •

Death TO the predator before another is harmed works •

DJB a.k.a. Kind Soul @ 43209
Nemo Me Impune Lacessit

Posted by: It Is I (I³) @ 43209 | Jul 6, 2014 1:45:05 PM

A lot of vile people and bile people endorse killing by humans of other humans. The Ten Commandments are written in stone. No exceptions.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jul 6, 2014 2:48:11 PM

Ryan had his day in the sun...

Ignore him.

Posted by: Midwest Guy | Jul 7, 2014 11:55:16 PM

Lib: The ancient hebrew staes, Thou shall not murder, not thou shall not kill. There is so much killing in Genesis, down to the last kitten, endorsed and commanded by God through His prophets.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 8, 2014 6:28:54 AM

Ryan will get latched onto by the media. There are two groups worse than the lawyer. Journalists and convicted felons. If lawyers are majority Democrats, journalists are nearly all Democrats, the party of criminality.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 8, 2014 6:32:32 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB