ACLU of Illinois Lauds Governor's Principled Decision Commuting Sentences of All Death Row Inmates

Affiliate: ACLU of Illinois
January 11, 2003 12:00 am

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ACLU of Illinois
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Statement of Mary Dixon, Legislative Director, ACLU of Illinois


CHICAGO –Governor George Ryan’s historic decision today to commute to life in prison the sentences of all death row inmates convicted under Illinois’ discredited and failed death penalty system offers further compelling evidence that the capital punishment system in the state should be abolished.

We enthusiastically add our voice to the chorus of individuals and organizations from Illinois and across the nation commending the Governor for making this principled decision. Today’s announcement is the latest development in a nearly three-year dialogue that began with the Governor’s announcement of a moratorium in January 2000, due to the flaws and failures of the system under which our state delivers its ultimate punishment.

The overwhelming evidence of flaws in the death penalty system-made clear in individual cases of exoneration, exposes by news media and the thoughtful, comprehensive report of the Governor’s Commission on Capital Punishment — are not addressed by the Governor’s actions today. We believe that the outgoing Governor’s decision was precipitated by the General Assembly’s unwillingness to implement meaningful and serious reform to the capital punishment system during his tenure.

These commutations should not be viewed as the end of our dialogue on the death penalty or the larger discussion about the systemic problems in our state’s criminal justice system. Rather, today’s commutations renew our belief in the pressing need for the General Assembly to act quickly to implement the recommendations made by the Governor’s Commission or failing that, a need to abolish the death penalty in Illinois. The people of Illinois have a right to know that the state will not put to death any innocent person.

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