Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Illinois Governor: Reflecting on Death Penalty Ban

'I'll Follow My Conscience'

The Illinois Senate voted to outlaw the death penalty this week. The House approved the ban last week. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said the opinion of the members of the legislature is important, but he would take his time before making a decision, according to Reuters.

Illinois has not executed anyone for more than a decade after former Republican Gov. George Ryan imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in January 2000. This followed a series of revelations that resulted in a series of inmates had been removed from death row. Reasons for release included prosecutorial errors, lying by witnesses and confessions by others.

Ryan took 167 prisoners off the state's Death Row in 2003, and pardoned another 4. Ryan was in the midst of a federal investigation that resulted in his arrest, conviction and incarceration.

Quinn, a Democrat, has said in the past that he approved of the death penalty for the most heinous crimes, but wanted to continue the moratorium. According to Reuters, opponents of lifting the ban include the Illinois State's Attorneys Association, which has said the death penalty is needed for law enforcement and to achieve justice.

If Quinn signs the bill, Illinois would be the 16th state, plus the District of Columbia, to have no death penalty, according to Reuters. New Mexico in 2009 was the last state to abolish the death penalty. There have been no executions in Illinois since 1999. Other states where legislation has been introduced to ban the death penalty include Colorado and Kansas.

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