Monday, December 6, 2010

Illinois Legislature Considers Bill to Abolish the Death Penalty

Illinois Senate Bill 3539 is intended to abolish the death penalty. The bill passed out of the House Judiciary-Criminal Law committee on a 4-3 partisan vote. However, the bill has not come up for a vote by the full House.

Jeremy Schroeder, executive director of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, told the Springfield State Journal-Register the group will push for a vote in January when the legislature tries to cram a multitude of votes into the final days before a new General Assembly is sworn in January 12th.

A vote in January is not guaranteed. A group of state’s attorneys raised an issue that’s been adopted by several lawmakers since -- that abolishing the death penalty demands much more study and debate. They said abolishing the death penalty is too important an issue to rush through the General Assembly during the closing hours of the session.

A succession of state's attorneys -- including Kevin Lyons of Peoria County and Joe Bruscato of Winnebago County -- argued that the death penalty is appropriate for heinous crimes.

"With the amount of crime in Winnebago County, the citizens cry out for justice. The victims cry out for justice," Bruscato told the State Journal-Register. "I believe (the death penalty) provides justice for the victims."

"Why are we here now?" asked Lyons. He told the State Journal Register, "We can only assume it's because you do not want to hear from persons opposed to this bill. That's why it comes up in the veto session, and that is offensive to victims. Prosecutors are accused all of the time of rushing to judgment. That's what's happening here."

The state has not executed anyone in a decade since ex-Governor George Ryan imposed a moratorium. The disgraced governor imposed the moratorium after commuting the sentence of everyone on death row. At the time, Ryan was the target of a criminal investigation that resulted in his conviction and incarceration.

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