Thursday, March 10, 2011

Illinois: Death penalty abolished

Yesterday Governor Pat Quinn signed Senate Bill 3539 thus abolishing the death penalty in the state of Illinois.

We want to express our gratetude towards all the people, organizations and politicians who worked tirelessly to make this happen.

And we want to thank Governor Quinn for doing the right thing. Not only did he abolish the death penalty in Illinois with his signature, he also took the courageous step to comute the sentences of the people on death row natural life imprisonment, without the possibility of parole or release.

I raise my hat to Governor Quinn.

Susanne Cardona

Please watch Governor Quinn's speech here:

Governor Quinn's speech:

Today I have signed Senate Bill 3539, which abolishes the death penalty in Illinois.

For me, this was a difficult decision, quite literally the choice between life and death. This was not a decision to be made lightly, or a decision that I came to without deep personal reflection.

Since the General Assembly passed this bill, I have met or heard from a wide variety of people on both sides of the issue. I have talked with prosecutors, judges, elected officials, religious leaders from around the world, families of murder victims, people on death row who were exonerated and ordinary citizens who have taken the time to share their thoughts with me. Their experiences, words and opinions have made a tremendous impact on my thinking, and I thank everyone who reached out on this matter.

After their guidance, as well as much thought and reflection, I have concluded that our system of imposing the death penalty is inherently flawed. The evidence presented to me by former prosecutors and judges with decades of experience in the criminal justice system has convinced me that it is impossible to devise a system that is consistent, that is free of discrimination on the basis of race, geography or economic circumstance, and that always gets it right.

As a state, we cannot tolerate the executions of innocent people because such actions strike at the very legitimacy of a government. Since 1977, Illinois has seen 20 people exonerated from death row. Seven of those were exonerated since the moratorium was imposed in 2000. That is a record that should trouble us all. To say that this is unacceptable does not even begin to express the profound regret and shame we, as a society, must bear for these failures of justice.

Since our experience has shown that there is no way to design a perfect death penalty system, free from the numerous flaws that can lead to wrongful convictions or discriminatory treatment, I have concluded that the proper course of action is to abolish it. With our broken system, we cannot ensure justice is achieved in every case. For the same reason, I have also decided to commute the sentences of those currently on death row to natural life imprisonment, without the possibility of parole or release.

I have found no credible evidence that the death penalty has a deterrent effect on the crime of murder and that the enormous sums expended by the state in maintaining a death penalty system would be better spent on preventing crime and assisting victims’ families in overcoming their pain and grief.

To those who say that we must maintain a death penalty for the sake of the victims’ families, I say that it is impossible not to feel the pain of loss that all these families share or to understand the desire for retribution that many may hold. But, as I heard from family members who lost loved ones to murder, maintaining a flawed death penalty system will not bring back their loved ones, will not help them to heal and will not bring closure to their pain. Nothing can do that. We must instead devote our resources toward the prevention of crime and the needs of victims’ families, rather than spending more money to preserve a flawed system.

The late Cardinal Joseph Bernadin observed, “[i]n a complex, sophisticated democracy like ours, means other than the death penalty are available and can be used to protect society.” In our current criminal justice system, we can impose extremely harsh punishments when warranted. Judges can impose sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Where necessary and appropriate, the state can incarcerate convicted criminals in maximum security prisons. These means should be sufficient to satisfy our need for retribution, justice and protection.

As Governor, I took an oath to uphold our state’s Constitution and faithfully execute our laws. Honoring that oath often requires making difficult decisions, but I have found none to be as difficult as the one I made today. I recognize that some may strongly disagree with this decision, but I firmly believe that we are taking an important step forward in our history as Illinois joins the 15 other states and many nations of the world that have abolished the death penalty.

(Source: Illinois Government News Network)


Bill Pelke said...

I would like to thank Gov. Quinn for his couragous decision to abolish the death penalty in Illinois. I have stood outside the gates of Statesville for several executions and I am happy that I will never have to do that again.

If all people would study this issue as Gov. Quinn did, I am sure they would come up with the same decision.

This is a great victory for human righs. 4 states in 4 years to abolish is fantastic. Montana, Connecticut, Colorado and several other states are close to repeal.
Step by step good people step by step.

Congratulations Illinois

David L. Gray (Yoseph M. Daviyd) said...

Awesome! Praise God!

Connie L. Nash said...

Full happy interview with Richard Dieter here: Governor Signs Bill Ending Death Penalty, Marking the Fewest States with Capital Punishment Since 1978

Posted: March 09, 2011

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn took the final step today in ending the death penalty and replacing it with a sentence of life without parole. The law also requires that state funds used for the death penalty be transferred to a fund for murder victims’ services and law enforcement. The ban on capital punishment comes after an eleven-year moratorium on executions declared by former Republican Governor George Ryan, and makes Illinois the 16th state to repeal the death penalty. It also marks the lowest number of states with the death penalty in more than thirty years. The Illinois repeal is an indication of a growing national trend toward alternatives to the death penalty, and an increased focus on murder victims' families and the prevention of crime. In light of our current economic climate, the public has increasingly recognized that resources used for the death penalty could be diverted to higher budgetary priorities, such as law enforcement and victims’ services. Many murder victims’ families were among the strongest supporters of the Illinois repeal and the high costs of the death penalty were influential in the passage of the repeal.

So glad my computer made it back in time to see this today!