Illinois Death Penalty News

Started by Jeff1857, February 12, 2008, 05:23:44 AM

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February 12, 2008, 05:23:44 AM Last Edit: May 24, 2008, 04:31:34 AM by Jeff1857
Death penalty moratorium: Back on the burners

DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett along with Republican state reps Dennis Reboletti of Elmhurst and Randy Ramey of West Chicago have called a news conference for tomorrow at the DuPage County Sheriff's office.

The lawmakers plan to announce the introduction of a resolution calling on Gov. Rod Blagojevich to lift the informal, 8-year moratorium on executions and the introduction of legislation to expand the death penalty by making those who murder children 16 and under automatically eligible for the death penalty (the current age under the law is 12 and under).

Anita Alvarez, the Democratic nominee for Cook County State's Attorney, has also put the moratorium in play, calling during a radio interview over the weekend for a statewide advisory referendum this fall and saying she'd like to shrink the number of defendants eligible for the death penalty.

In speaking with host Bill Cameron on WLS-AM 890's "Connected to Chicago" program, Alvarez said she felt capital punishment is "appropriate for the most serious cases -- the most heinous of cases," but said there are currently "way too many qualifying factors and those need to be eliminated."

As an example she sited provisions in the law that allow for the death penalty in cases of drive-by shootings.

Alvarez proposed an advisory ballot referendum on the moratorium , and said she thought it "probably should continue until [state lawmakers] scale back the qualifying factors."

Former Gov. George Ryan unilaterally declared the moratorium in January, 2000. Gov. Blagojevich has allowed it to continue, though he or a subsequent governor could lift it at his whim at any time. Capital cases continue to grind through the justice system.

Host Bill Cameron: Where are you on the death penalty?

Anita Alvarez: The death penalty is still the law in Illinois, and as long as it's still the law in Illinois, as the chief law enforcement officer in Cook County, I would abide by that law. I think it's appropriate for the most serious cases -- the most heinous of cases. But I think what really needs to be done is that a debate needs to be had down in Springfield. We need to put it to a vote already, and if the voters of the state of Illinois don't want it, we're still going to do our job, and we're still going to do our job well. There are things that can be changed about the death penalty. For instance, the qualifying factors -- what makes it a death penalty case. There are way too many qualifying factors and those need to be eliminated. And I would push for that if the death penalty is going to remain in Illinois. But I really think the debate needs to be had because I don't' know what effect this moratorium is having. Lets put it to a vote already and let's decide what we want to do, and then that way we know exactly where to go in our office.

Cameron: By 'put it to a vote,' do you mean in the General Assembly or to the people by referendum?

Alvarez: Well I would think to the people by referendum and decide what the constituents -- what the people of the state of Illinois- want.

Cameron: And the question would be, do you want to continue the moratorium? Is that what you're driving at?

Alvarez: The moratorium probably should continue until they scale back the qualifying factors. I really want reform. There was that whole [governor's commission] report that was done, and our office agreed to the elimination of many of those qualifying factors.

Cameron: What are some that should be eliminated?

Alvarez: Drive-by shootings was one. Just because a person is shot from a moving vehicle, that's a qualifying factor and it's something that our office we agreed that could be eliminated. Yet nothing has been done. So the moratorium is on, but nobody's really addressing these issues. Let's just look at it already and make the changes and keep it or put it to a vote and see what the voters want to do....

Bill Cameron: So you'd like to see a referendum on the ballot this fall asking people if they want to continue the moratorium?

Alvarez: Yes, I think that would be be good. Instead of just ignoring it, let's put it to a vote.
Well I see some lawmakers are tired of the moratorium there.


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- When former Gov. George Ryan took the extraordinary step of emptying Illinois' death row over fears that an innocent person could be executed, he urged lawmakers to reform the death penalty.
Five years later, the future of capital punishment in Illinois is no closer to being decided.
The current governor, Democrat Rod Blagojevich, refuses to carry out executions of the 14 people now on death row despite approving several reforms. Lawmakers have ignored legislative attempts to decide the issue. And prosecutors are slower to seek the death penalty.
As the issue languishes, those involved in the debate agree on at least one thing: It's time for lawmakers to lift the moratorium or abolish the death penalty altogether.

"I don't think that the moratorium was meant to be a permanent position," said Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins, a member of the state's Capital Punishment Reform Study Committee and a victim's rights advocate who favors abolishing the death penalty.
"Vengeance does not fill the gaping hole left behind," said Bishop-Jenkins, whose pregnant sister and brother-in-law were murdered in their Winnetka home in 1990. "It does not provide justice, to kill the offender and suggest that it is going somehow balance out or make OK what happened to her and her husband and her baby."
But she knows some of those she represents feel differently, and says it's time for Illinois to decide one way or the other.
In 2000, Ryan, a Republican, made Illinois the first state with the death penalty to suspend executions, after 13 condemned prisoners were freed for wrongful conviction. Just before leaving office in 2003, Ryan cleared death row entirely, sparing 167 people from execution. Most had their sentences commuted to life in prison, though a handful got outright pardons.
But the issue has stalled since then, even as other states have resolved the issue.
In 2004, Blagojevich signed into law capital punishment reforms -- including mandatory videotaped confessions in murder cases, restrictions on testimony from jailhouse informants and broader use of DNA analysis -- and created a committee to review the reforms annually for five years.
But the panel has rarely had enough members -- appointed by Blagojevich -- to do its work, and the governor vetoed its funding this year.
Nevertheless, DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett said Blagojevich should lift the moratorium, saying the reforms have made it virtually impossible for the innocent to end up on death row. The state also budgeted more than $12 million this year for a fund that will help pay for such things as like investigators, DNA analysis and health evaluations in capital cases.
"This has been a thoughtful, careful and informed set of reforms that all parties have had a chance to weigh in on and I don't think the governor is even aware of these and the effect that they're having across the state," Birkett said.
Jane Bohman, executive director of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, argues the capital punishment system has improved but is still flawed. She said there are too many circumstances under which someone could qualify for the death penalty, and the decision on who gets the sentence is too arbitrary.
For instance, a jury convicted Juan Luna last year in the 1993 execution-style murders of seven people at the Brown's Chicken and Pasta restaurant in Palatine but rejected the death penalty. Meanwhile, Laurence Lovejoy of Naperville was sentenced to death after he was convicted of killing his stepdaughter.
"The moratorium is a necessity because we had a horribly broken system and it's not fixed," Bohman said.
Other states have made more progress.
In New Jersey, lawmakers in 2006 imposed a moratorium on executions and two years later abolished the death penalty after concluding it was too much of a financial and emotional burden. New York also has effectively abolished the death penalty through court decisions.
Virginia this year lifted its death penalty moratorium after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of lethal injection in April.
But Illinois isn't the only state in limbo.
California's death penalty has been on hold for two years because of legal challenges in federal and state courts. Delaware, Maryland and Tennessee also have halted executions while the issue of whether lethal injection is constitutional is resolved within each state, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington D.C.
In Illinois, lawmakers aren't rushing to resolve the issue.
Sen. Rickey Hendon, D-Chicago, sponsored legislation to abolish the death penalty last year, but the Senate has never voted on the idea. Similarly, Rep. Dennis Reboletti, R-Elmhurst, introduced a resolution to end the moratorium, only to see it languish in committee.
So that leaves the decision to Blagojevich.
The governor plans to keep the moratorium in place until he "is confident there is no chance an innocent person will be put to death," said spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff.
"After such a long and tragic history of injustice, we will not rush to judgment or put some sort of artificial timeline in place," she added.
But Ottenhoff would not say what Blagojevich is doing to review the reforms, or what criteria he'll use to decide whether to end the moratorium. She did not respond to repeated requests for an interview with anyone in the administration who is studying the death penalty.
Meanwhile, prosecutors are slower to seek the death penalty. Fifteen people have been sentenced to death in Illinois since 2003 -- one apparently committee suicide recently -- compared to 33 who were condemned in the five years before the commutations.
Winnebago County State's Attorney Philip Nicolosi recalled explaining to a grieving family why his office was hesitant to seek the death penalty in their case.
"One of the things I told them was this case pretty much has a guarantee that it's going to go on without a final resolution if we do seek the death penalty," he said.


ST. LOUIS, June 28, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ ----The 201-member Assembly of the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) today voted in favor of abolition of the death penalty in Illinois.

The vote came after presentations by former federal prosecutor Thomas Sullivan, past president of the ISBA Terrence K. Hegarty, and the President of the Illinois State's Attorneys Association, Joseph Birkett, State's Attorney of DuPage County.

After quoting from the dissent of retired Illinois Supreme Court Justice Moses Harrison, newly-installed ISBA president Jack C. Carey of Belleville, said, "The application of the death penalty in Illinois has been demonstrated to be flawed beyond any doubt. Our position is that the death penalty is not fixable and should be discontinued. To do otherwise would invite the grossest miscarriage of justice imaginable, the death of an innocent person."

Carey added that just as Abraham Lincoln was an abolitionist on the issue of slavery, the ISBA should be an abolitionist on the issue of the death penalty. Both issues involve basic human rights.

Sullivan, a partner at Jenner & Block law firm in Chicago, is a former U.S. Attorney for the northern district of Illinois. He told the Assembly that only half of more than 70 improvements recommended by a Governor's blue ribbon commission on capital punishment have been enacted.

The Illinois State Bar Association's Assembly previously has considered death penalty issues, voting to support almost all recommendations in the Governor's commission report, and successfully urging adoption of a capital litigation fund to provide uniform funding for defense and prosecution of capital cases.

Today's vote was the first time the Association has voted to favor abolition of the death penalty. The Association will lend its active support to current legislation in the Illinois legislature aimed at abolishing the death penalty.

Created in 1877, the ISBA, with offices in Springfield and Chicago, is the state's largest bar association with 35,000 members.

SOURCE Illinois State Bar Association


SPRINGFIELD -- It's been 25 years since Illinois abandoned use of the electric chair, moving instead to lethal injection as a means to execute prisoners on death row.

In September 1983, then-Gov. Jim Thompson signed legislation to make the change. Since then, 12 Illinois inmates have been killed using the lethal cocktail of drugs rather than electricity.

At the time, lethal injection could have been sought as a more humane method of executing an inmate.

But today, the capital punishment debate in Illinois revolves not around the method of executions, but instead whether or not the death penalty should be used at all.

It's been more than nine years since the last execution in Illinois. Gov. George Ryan put a temporary stop to state executions, saying he was concerned the system was broken and innocent people could be put to death.

Now, though, prosecutors across the state can seek the death penalty, and have. Some call the situation a sort of "legal limbo."

Fourteen inmates sit on death row at Pontiac Correctional Center, confined to their cells 23 hours a day.

"They're in the cells by themselves," said Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman Derek Schnapp.

But the moratorium on executions basically remains in place, mostly based on an assurance from Gov. Rod Blagojevich that he won't let executions happen until strict reforms are adopted.

"The governor plans to keep the death penalty moratorium in place until he is confident there is no chance an innocent person will be put to death," said Blagojevich spokesman Brian Williamsen.

Some reforms were adopted in 2004, but most of the talk since has been confined to a state committee charged with studying the matter.

Later this month, a panel of lawmakers plan to hold a hearing in Chicago that some hope will eventually lead to a final decision on the matter -- either reforming the justice system and keeping capital punishment in Illinois, or abolishing the practice altogether.

"We do want to decide this issue," said Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins. She sits on a state panel that's studying the issue and leads a support group called Illinois Victims.

For prosecutors, some want the death penalty issue decided, partly because it's hard to spend the ample time and money needed trying cases when they don't know for sure if a death sentence would eventually be fulfilled.

Still, assistant Macon County state's attorney Jay Scott said that uncertainty wouldn't affect their plans in most cases.

"It's not going to stop us from seeking the death penalty in an appropriate case," Scott said.

Jane Bohman, director of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said she's willing to wait out the mostly behind-the-scenes studying and debating of the issue until lawmakers are eventually ready to take a vote on capital punishment in Illinois.

"There's this very deliberate process going on," Bohman said.

Since Thompson's signature 25 years ago, the state has executed 12 inmates, including Chicago serial killer John Wayne Gacy in 1994.

But in the past several years since Ryan loudly raised concerns about the fairness of the process and whether innocent people were being killed, there hasn't been an abundance of public debate on the issue.

Bohman said she's fine with that.

"Keep the politics out of this," Bohman said.

Today, 25 years later, Illinois still has its electric chair locked away at Stateville Correctional Center. It's only accessible to prison officials.


February 6, 2009 (COLLINSVILLE, Ill.) -- Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says he has no immediate plans to lift the state's moratorium on the death penalty.
The Democrat who last week replaced ousted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich says he supports capital punishment. But he says he worries innocent people have been sent to Illinois' death row.
During a visit to Collinsville on Friday, Quinn said he wants to make sure there are adequate safeguards to make sure no one is put to death improperly in Illinois. He says that would weigh on everyone's conscience.
Imprisoned former Gov. George Ryan declared a moratorium on executions in Illinois in 2000. Ryan commuted the sentence of every inmate on death row, citing a number of wrongful convictions.


10 years since last execution in Illinois

Before he was executed on March 17, 1999, convicted murderer Andrew Kokoraleis sat in his cell and wrote a note to his spiritual adviser, Demetrios Kantzavelos, who was then the chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Chicago.

Two days later, the card arrived.

"It was very haunting," now-Bishop Kantzavelos said. "He thanked me for everything I had done for him, and he wrote that perhaps God might use his execution to finally end all executions in Illinois."

No one has been put to death in this state in the decade since Kokoraleis died by lethal injection. On Thursday, death penalty opponents -- including Kantzavelos and members of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty -- plan to hold a rally at the state Capitol to support a bill that would abolish capital punishment. The bill passed a House committee last Wednesday -- the first abolition bill to make it to the House floor since 2003.

"I tried to see [then] Gov. Ryan to see if he would delay the execution to study the system," Kantzavelos said. "He would not have a meeting. I was very bitter about it. Andrew would be alive today if his execution had been delayed."

Kokoraleis was convicted of mutilating and murdering 21-year-old Lorraine Borowski, who was abducted in 1982 on her way to work at a real estate office in West suburban Elmhurst. Her body was later found in a cemetery. Prosecutors said he was involved in more than a dozen other murders of area women.

More than nine months after Kokoraleis was executed, in January 2000, Ryan imposed a moratorium on executions that remains in effect. Gov. Quinn has said he will not lift the moratorium.

In 2003, Ryan commuted the sentences of all 167 Illinois Death Row inmates to life in prison without parole. Since then, Kantzavelos has been even more active in the anti-death penalty movement.

"The Byzantine empire outlawed the death penalty in the sixth century," he said. "I live every day with the prayer that Andrew's dying wish will be granted."

Since Kokoraleis' execution, there has been a dramatic shift in the imposition of the death penalty across the nation, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.

"It seems clear that the issue of innocence has played a pivotal role," Dieter said. "There were 306 death sentences in 1998, a typical year for that decade. In 2007, the number of death sentences dropped to 115 -- a 62 percent decline.

"The issue of innocence was played out more publicly and emphatically in Illinois than anywhere else in the country," Dieter said. "From exonerations resulting from journalistic investigations, to the national conference at Northwestern in 1998, to the declaration of the moratorium ... Illinois has been at the center of the innocence revolution."

Dieter's center lists 130 Death Row exonerations since 1973, including 17 in which DNA evidence played a crucial role. In Illinois, 10 defendants had been released from Death Row by the time Kokoraleis was executed. In 2003, Ryan pardoned four more.

In 1999, there were 98 executions nationwide, but only 37 in 2008. Thirty-five of those were in Southern states, including Texas, Oklahoma and Florida, among others.

And after increasing every year since the death penalty was reinstated nationally in 1976, the number of people on Death Rows has dropped since 1999, Dieter said.

Two states, New Jersey and New York, have recently abandoned the death penalty. Other states, such as Montana and New Mexico, are considering outlawing capital punishment.

Many reforms were proposed in Illinois after the moratorium. Only a fraction became law -- most notably the establishment of a capital litigation fund, training and certification for prosecutors and defense lawyers, and the introduction of videotaping of interrogations in murder investigations.

Former U.S. Attorney Thomas Sullivan, who was a member of the commission that proposed the Illinois reforms, also heads a committee formed to study the impact of the changes. There isn't sufficient data to assess the success or failure of the post-moratorium death-penalty system, he said. But "the sheer numbers show that the number of death sentences that have been returned has decreased dramatically,'' he said. "Currently, there are 15 defendants on Death Row in Illinois."

The imposition of the death penalty has slowed significantly, statistics show. During 2006 and 2007, the cases of 105 defendants who at one time faced the death penalty were resolved.

Prosecutors withdrew the death penalty in 62 of the cases and sought the ultimate punishment in 43 cases. Six people were sentenced to death -- three in Cook County and one each in Will, DuPage and Hancock counties.

Of the 37 remaining cases, 32 defendants were convicted and sentenced to terms ranging from 28 years to life in prison without parole. One defendant was convicted of a less-serious offense than murder. Four were acquitted.

While the number of death sentences is down sharply, Sullivan believes the death penalty is still being used as a threat by prosecutors to obtain plea bargains. Sullivan also thinks that prosecutors in rural counties seek the death penalty so funding for the case will come from the state-funded capital defense budget, rather than from individual county treasuries.

Ultimately, though, Sullivan believes "the cases are better defended," he said. "The playing field has been leveled to some degree. And so the state is seeking the death penalty less often.",CST-NWS-death08.article
JT's Ridiculous Quote of the Century:
"I'm disgusted with the State for even putting me in this position."
-- Reginald Blanton, Texas death row.  As of October 27, 2009, Reggie's position has been in a coffin.

heidi salazar

Governor Quinn Says Death Penalty Moratorium Should Stay

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn says he has no plans to lift the state's moratorium on the death penalty. That comes as DuPage County prosecutors seek a death sentence for the 1983 murder of Jeanine Nicarico.

Two men had been sentenced to death for the murder of Jeanine Nicarico. Those men were later cleared. Governor Pat Quinn says if reforms weren't enacted...innocent men could have been executed.

QUINN: I don't oppose the death penalty, but I do think it's very important that there be zero tolerance for mistakes. I don't think we have any tolerance for that.

Earlier this week, Brian Dugan pleaded guilty to the murder of Nicarico. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for him. In the meantime, Quinn says the moratorium should stay in place.


It's no good having the death penalty if you're not prepared to allow executions to proceed even in a small number of cases, Governor.  Reforms to the Illinois death penalty system have already occurred.
JT's Ridiculous Quote of the Century:
"I'm disgusted with the State for even putting me in this position."
-- Reginald Blanton, Texas death row.  As of October 27, 2009, Reggie's position has been in a coffin.


Fifteen Illinois inmates sit in limbo on death row, sentenced to pay the ultimate price for their crimes yet unsure whether a 9-old moratorium on state-sponsored executions will ever be lifted.

James Degorski narrowly missed joining their ranks last week when two jurors refused to support the death penalty for his role in the 1993 Brown's Chicken massacre.

In a hearing that continues this week, convicted child killer Brian Dugan could still be sent there if a DuPage County jury unanimously agrees that he deserves to die for the abduction, rape and murder of Naperville schoolgirl Jeanine Nicarico in 1983.

Former Gov. George Ryan made death row a prison purgatory when he enacted the moratorium in 2000 following the exoneration of the 13th prisoner found to have been wrongfully convicted in a capital case. In 2003, he commuted the sentences of 167 condemned inmates to life in prison.

Since that time, 16 people have been sentenced to death. One committed suicide, and the rest are wading through the lengthy appeals process.

The ban remains moot until an inmate exhausts all appeals and is assigned an execution date. At that point -- probably about three years from now -- the governor will have to decide whether to reinstate capital punishment.

"It's all going to depend on who's in the governor's mansion when the cases come to an end," said Andrea Lyon, director of the Center for Justice in Capital Cases at DePaul University.

Gov. Pat Quinn has said he has no immediate plans to lift the ban. But at least one gubernatorial candidate, state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, said enough safeguards are in place to resume executions. If politicians want to abolish the death penalty, they should hold a referendum instead of ignoring the issue, he said.

Source: Chicago Tribune, Oct. 26, 2009



"If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself." Albert Einstein

heidi salazar

January 18, 2010, 07:39:56 PM Last Edit: January 18, 2010, 07:44:43 PM by Heidi
Moratorium Nears Decade Mark, Democrats Show Little Leadership on Death Penalty

In two weeks, Illinois will mark the 10-year anniversary of Governor George Ryan's decision to halt executions in the state.

Ryan's controversial decision to enact a moratorium on the death penalty briefly put Illinois at the forefront of a national debate about capital punishment, with Amnesty International calling Illinois' death penalty system "too flawed to fix". Two years after establishing the moratorium, Ryan made an even more controversial decision:clearing death row and commuting 156 death sentences to life without the possibility of parole.

Following Ryan's actions, the state legislature added a number of procedural safeguards  to capital prosecutions, forcing investigators to disclose their field notes and requiring that police videotape all interrogations in capital cases. Taken together, the reforms dramatically reduced the likelihood that police misconduct would result in innocent people being sent to death row.

But while the reforms have surely made the system fairer, they don't go far enough for two reasons. First, there is still no way to ensure that an innocent person will not be executed. Second, no matter how safe the system is, the broader underlying question of whether it is permissible for the government to take life remains unaddressed.

Wrongful convictions remain perhaps the biggest problem with the death penalty, the only criminal sanction that is truly permanent. Indeed, since Illinois resumed carrying out the death penalty in 1976, the state has executed 12 people -- and freed 13 from death row after new evidence exonerated them.

Part of the reason for wrongful convictions is that there is a long history of police and prosecutorial misconduct in capital cases: the most famous death penalty case in Illinois involved the DuPage County state's attorney's prosecuting Rolando Cruz for sexual assault and murder despite knowing about evidence that cleared him.

Even in the absence of malfeasance, there is still the issue of incompetence. The Cook County state's attorney prosecuted the "Ford Heights Four" in the 1980s for a double murder of a couple even though witnesses pointed to other culprits. DNA evidence would later exonerate the four, and they would collect $36 million in damages following a civil rights lawsuit against the county.

On a more philosophical level, capital punishment ought to run contrary to our values, particularly in light of evidence that there are widespread problems with the actual administration of taking a human life. The United States is the only industrialized nation that clings to the death penalty, and many developing nations -- like Brazil and India -- have either abolished the practice or use it so infrequently that they have virtually abolished it.

Within the United States, too, there is a growing trend away from the death penalty. Liberal New England has always seen the practice as barbaric, and New Jersey became the 14th state to ban the practice in 2007, followed by New Mexico last year. This month, the Kansas legislature will begin hearings on whether it should become the next state to change its capital punishment system to life without the possibility of parole.

So is there a chance Illinois will become the 16th state to abolish the practice, or 17th if Kansas beats us to it? Unlikely.

Nearly all the Republicans running for governor say they would lift Ryan's moratorium and resume executions. The Democratic candidates, Governor Pat Quinn and Comptroller Dan Hynes, have taken more progressive positions, though of a decidedly milquetoast variety: both say they would keep the death penalty for heinous crimes, but add that the system needs further reforms and that the moratorium should remain in place. Neither has the guts to call openly for repeal. Oddly enough, the one person who does is State Senator Dan Proft, a conservative Republican.

Despite the gubernatorial candidates' timidity, the Illinois legislature has provided some progressive leadership on the issue. A coalition of House liberals and a diverse group of Senate Democrats (which includes two downstaters) have sponsored bills indicating their support for abolishing the death penalty. The Senate's genuinely liberal president, John Cullerton, who was instrumental in pushing death penalty reforms through the State Senate in 2003, is also against the death penalty.

We ought to expect more from the Democrats -- particularly the governor and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan -- who have governed Illinois lock, stock, and barrel for the past seven years. If Kansas is considering ending the death penalty, the Land of Lincoln really ought to be able to do the same. Otherwise, the author (and former Chicagoan) Tom Frank will have the perfect title for his next book: "What's The Matter With Illinois?"

heidi salazar

Quinn favors death penalty moratorium; Brady would lift it.

Gov. Pat Quinn would maintain Illinois' 10-year moratorium on the death penalty while his Republican opponent, state Sen. Bill Brady, would lift it, the 2 candidates' campaigns said this week.

Their comments come at the same time as the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty released the results of a poll it commissioned showing that a majority of Illinois registered voters prefer some penalty other than death for the crime of murder.

The poll also found that fewer than 40 % of registered voters even know Illinois has a death penalty.

"We really view the results as verifying what we already knew," said Jeremy Schroeder, executive director of the coalition. "People assume there is a slight preference (for capital punishment). That's not reality."

Quinn's campaign said the governor has no "immediate plans" to lift the moratorium on executions that was put in place by then-Gov. George Ryan in 2000. Both ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Quinn have maintained it.

"Although he supports capital punishment when applied carefully and fairly, he is deeply concerned by the possibility of an innocent man or woman being executed," campaign spokeswoman Mica Matsoff said in a statement. "He believes the current moratorium gives the state an opportunity to reflect on the issue and create safeguards to make sure that the death penalty is not being imposed improperly in Illinois."

Brady: Lift moratorium

Brady would lift the moratorium, campaign spokeswoman Patty Schuh said in a statement.

"Bill Brady views the death penalty as an appropriate punishment for the most heinous crimes," she said.

As does Quinn. Although he would not lift the moratorium, Quinn "believes that the death penalty may be an appropriate punishment for particularly heinous crimes, such as murder or terrorism," Matsoff said. "He believes the death penalty underscores our shared belief as a society that some crimes deserve the most severe punishment, when meted out fairly and justly."

Brady's campaign also said the state should continue funding the capital litigation trust fund, which supports both prosecutors and defense counsel in death penalty cases.

"We need to ensure adequate representation," the statement said.

Quinn's campaign did not respond to a question about the fund.

Schroeder said the fund has spent more than $100 million since 2003.

""llinois is ready to repeal the death penalty and use the money for things that make sense when we have other sentencing options," he said.

'Dig a little deeper'

The coalition poll was conducted April 15-19 by Lake Research Partners in Washington, D.C. The telephone survey of 400 registered voters has a margin of error of 4.9 %.

The pollsters read people 3 statements about the death penalty and asked them to choose the one that best reflected their view:

-- The penalty for murder should be death;

-- The penalty for murder should be life in prison with no possibility of parole; and

-- The penalty for murder should be life in prison with no possibility of parole and a requirement to work to make restitution to the victim's family.

The poll found 32 % felt the penalty for murder should be death. Another 18 % said the penalty should be life without parole, while 43 % chose the option of life without parole, but with restitution.

Schroeder said the result demonstrates that support for the death penalty erodes when other options are given rather than a "yes" or "no" to capital punishment.

"When you make it into a more realistic question and dig a little deeper, you find that (support) isn't the case," he said.

Loaded question?

DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett, who supports the death penalty for a narrow class of murders, said he doubts the poll results.

"The question is loaded," Birkett said. "I would say that most people believe that the death penalty should be on the books, but reserved for the worst type of murders."

Birkett said capital punishment should be reserved for things like killing police officers, multiple murders, murders in the act of treason and murder for hire.

"It's a fraction of a percent who should be exposed (to the death penalty)," he said.

The coalition poll also asked if people knew whether or not Illinois has a death penalty. Only 39 % said "yes," while 33 % said "no" and 28 % weren't sure.

Schroeder attributed that to a declining murder rate and fewer people being sentenced to death, with the publicity surrounding it.

Birkett, though, said it's more likely because people don't understand the moratorium. They may believe the state has no death penalty because of the moratorium, when in fact Illinois law still provides for the death penalty, but the state does not carry it out.

On death row

Former Gov. George Ryan declared a moratorium on executions in Illinois in January 2000. Just before leaving office, he commuted the sentences of all inmates then on Illinois' death row to life in prison.

This is the inmate population on death row in Illinois:

January 2000 -- 158

July 2010 -- 15

Illinois' last execution

Before imposing a moratorium on executions in January 2000, Gov. George Ryan decided 1 death penalty case. In 1999, he turned down the appeal of Andrew Kokoraleis, who had been convicted of the abduction, rape and murder of a woman in Elmhurst.

On March 16, 1999, Kokoraleis, 35, was executed by lethal injection at Tamms Correctional Center for the 1982 ritual mutilation and strangulation of Lorraine Borowski, a 21-year-old secretary at a real estate office who had been abducted on her way to work.

His brother, Thomas Kokoraleis, also was convicted of the murder. He received a life sentence.

"This was like a Manson-type cult," Andrew Kokoraleis' defense attorney, Alan Freedman, argued at the time. "But in this particular case, there's a high likelihood my client didn't do it. I'm not going to vouch for anything else."

The defense also unsuccessfully claimed that new information cast doubt on the credibility of confessions by 2 other co-defendants. Kokoraleis was the 1st (and so far the only) prisoner executed at Tamms, the super-maximum-security prison in southern Illinois.

Between the time capital punishment was reinstated in 1977 and Ryan's moratorium in 2000, Illinois freed 13 men from death row and put 12 to death.

That record prompted Ryan to suspend executions and order a commission to study the issue.

He said he had agonized over the Kokoraleis case and ultimately decided there was no doubt about his guilt.

"It was an emotional, exhausting experience that I wouldn't wish on anyone," Ryan said at the time.

[source: Newspaper and Internet archives]

Green Party

Green Party governor candidate Rich Whitney, a Carbondale lawyer, said he opposes the death penalty for several reasons.

"Human institutions being fallible, as they are, I don't believe that our criminal justice system should be empowered to take a human life under any circumstances," Whitney said. "I think it's immoral, (and) I think it does not actually tend to successfully deter others from violent crimes."

Whitney said Illinois has "a whole history" of wrongful convictions in capital cases. Even though efforts have been made to "level the playing field a little bit," he thinks the prosecution still has an institutional advantage.

"There's other factors like race discrimination," Whitney said. "You have the fact that people can be encouraged to testify against an alleged assailant when they themselves cut deals."

Even in clear-cut cases, Whitney said, "I still don't think, on just a moral and philosophical ground, that it's right for the state to be taking another human life. I think it tends to reinforce additional violence, rather than deter it."

(source: Suburban Life Publications)

Bill C

the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty released the results of a poll it commissioned showing that a majority of Illinois registered voters prefer some penalty other than death for the crime of murder.

This poll was commissioned by the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.  Is it any surprise they got the results they paid for?  I wonder how the question was worded?  Something along the lines of "If an abused woman kills her husband during a drunken rant, should she receive the death penalty?"

I'll bet an independent poll would show different results.

heidi salazar

Bill C, it is just the news...over 60% of the time an Illinois jury will issue a death sentence!


Legislators hear pleas over death penalty

Wed, 01/05/2011 - 8:00am

Tom Kacich

SPRINGFIELD - Prosecutors from a number of Illinois counties pleaded with Illinois lawmakers Tuesday to listen to voters and crime victims before acting to abolish the death penalty.

Senate Bill 3539 cleared a House committee in November and is at passage stage in the House.

But several state's attorneys and family members of murder victims said they had not been heard from regarding the bill.

"This General Assembly has many, many important considerations that demand its attention. But this bill is not among them," said Sheldon Sobol, head of the Illinois State's Attorneys Association. "This is a bill that was rushed through the Judiciary Committee in 35 minutes. This is a bill that has many, many factors that have to be considered by the General Assembly when they take this action. And 35 minutes is not enough time to consider one of those."

Lawmakers "have not heard from the most important people who are impacted by this decision, and that's the victims," Sobol said.

"Tying this issue to the fiscal crisis that is going on in this state cheapens the value of life and what our judiciary stands for in this state," said Sobol, who is the Grundy County state's attorney.

But not all county prosecutors oppose abolishing the death penalty.

Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz said she supports the move, although she objects to the repeal coming up in the Legislature's lame-duck session.

"The families of victims deserve the opportunity to be heard on this important issue," Rietz said in an e-mail.

Bill Sloop, a Hancock County resident who had one young daughter killed and another seriously injured in 1996, said Daniel Ramsey, who is on Death Row for the offenses, should get the death penalty.

"The only true justice in this case is his death, and there's no going on. We need this closure. To abolish the death penalty is wrong. It's wrong to all of us victims," said Sloop. "I pray to God that they never abolish the death penalty in the state of Illinois."

Among the prosecutors fighting the death penalty repeal is 18-year veteran Coles County State's Attorney Steve Ferguson, who prosecuted Death Row inmate Anthony Mertz for the 2001 rape, murder and mutilation of Shannon McNamara, an Eastern Illinois University student.

"Apart from public opinion polls ... apart from the cost issue, apart from these studies on deterrence, I think we also need to remember what is right in a given case," Ferguson said. "Is this Legislature prepared to say that if Timothy McVeigh had committed his crime under state law in Illinois, that the death penalty wouldn't be appropriate? I certainly hope not."

Fergsuon said Mertz was the first death penalty case in the state after former Gov. George Ryan commuted the death sentences of every Death Row inmate in the state.

"It was a single murder but he butchered this young lady, ripped her body apart," he said. "I believe that seeking the death penalty was the right thing. The aggravation phase of that case lasted longer than the guilt-innocence phase because we discovered other facts of his conduct that had not come to light. The jury came back with a verdict of death in just about two hours.

"It was the right thing to do. I just hate to see this Legislature rush through something this quickly without any consideration."

Ferguson said he had had other potential death penalty cases in Coles County since Mertz, including a recent shaken baby case, but "they did not cry out for it. There are certain offenses that are just beyond the pale and the death penalty is the right verdict to pursue and the right verdict to render."

Although the state's attorneys from DuPage, Coles, Kankakee, Winnebago and Hancock counties asked the Legislature not to abolish the death penalty, Rietz said Tuesday that she "would have no objection to repeal of the death penalty in the light of current sentencing provisions requiring convicted murderers to serve their entire sentence without time off for good behavior."

Rietz said that with "a sentencing range of 20 to 60 years with no reduction for good behavior, and in certain situations with natural life as a sentencing possibility, I do not believe the death penalty is a necessary sentencing option in order to protect the public or to deter other potential offenders. We can, and in Champaign County regularly do, sentence murderers to prison for what amounts to effectively life sentences.

"Furthermore, the additional safeguards required under death penalty reform legislation add significant costs to death penalty eligible cases. These safeguards are not inappropriate given the magnitude of the ultimate sentence being sought, but the expenses involved with these safeguards are not financially sustainable at the county or state level, and can be the deciding factor between seeking the death penalty or electing to seek a standard, 20 to 60 year, no-good-time prison sentence."







Friday, Jan. 07, 2011

Illinois House approves plan to abolish capital punishment

Associated Press --

SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois House approved a plan to abolish capital punishment Thursday in a whirlwind reversal on a historic vote.

The legislation to halt state-sponsored execution gained the necessary 60 votes after an earlier vote fell short.

The landmark action comes nearly 11 years after then-Gov. George Ryan cleared death row and declared a moratorium on capital punishment in Illinois, which he said was "haunted by the demon of error."

Illinois has put 12 people to death since death sentences were reinstated more than 30 years ago, but 20 have been declared wrongly condemned and released from death row.

The repeal measure's sponsor, Rep. Karen Yarbrough, D-Maywood, urged her colleagues to "take a momentous step to right a major wrong and end for good the tragic story of the death penalty."

The legislation now moves to the Senate. Senate President John Cullerton said Thursday night he supports the proposal and hopes it passes. But the Chicago Democrat stopped short of saying he would ask his members to back it.






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