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Illinois Governor signs bill that abolishes the death penalty

Bryan Alaspa's picture

After weeks of deliberation Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois signed Bill 3539 which has abolished the death penalty in the state.

The bill passed through the state Senate back in January with a 32-25 vote. Not long after that, the Illinois House also passed the measure. From that point the bill sat on Governor Quinn’s desk and he had until March 18 to sign the bill, but he took the time to hear from people representing both sides of the argument.

Governor Quinn released a statement saying that it was an agonizing decision for him as he had, previously, been a proponent of the death penalty. His statement said that this decision was, quite literally, a decision between life and death. Governor Quinn stated that he met with prosecutors, judges, politicians and religious leaders not only from Illinois, but from around the world.

Quinn stated that he felt the Illinois system was inherently flawed. A moratorium on the death penalty was imposed by former Governor George Ryan. At that time, there were several men on Death Row who had been proven to be innocent of the crimes that had placed them there. Governor Quinn stated he talked with people who had spent time on Death Row in reaching his decision. He also spent time talking with the families of murder victims before rendering his decision to sign.

Quinn’s statement went on to say that he has found no data that conclusively proves that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime. He also cited the fact that is costs a lot of money to keep an prisoner on Death Row and maintaining a death penalty system. He stated he felt that this money would be better spent in preventing crimes and helping families who have been the victims of violent crimes.

With the signature on the bill, Governor Quinn also commuted the sentence of 15 criminals currently on Death Row to life in prison. Some attorneys have stated that the removal of the death penalty hampers their ability to properly prosecute violent offenders. Previously, they could offer deals to suspects by threatening them with the death penalty and then offering to take it off the table in order to extract information from them. With the death penalty now gone permanently, some prosecutors warn that they will be forced to bring more murder cases to trial.

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