Ill. governor signs bill to end capital punishment
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois signed legislation that abolished the state’s death penalty yesterday, more than a decade after the state imposed a moratorium on executions out of concern that innocent people could be put to death by a justice system that had wrongly condemned 13 men.
Quinn, a Democrat, also commuted the sentences of all 15 inmates remaining on death row. They will now serve life in prison with no hope of parole.
State lawmakers voted in January to abandon capital punishment, and Quinn spent two months reflecting on the issue, speaking with prosecutors, crime victims’ families, death penalty opponents, and religious leaders. He called it the “most difficult decision’’ he has made as governor.
“It’s not possible to create a perfect, mistake-free death penalty system,’’ Quinn said.
Illinois will join 15 other states that have done away with executions.
The executive director of a national group that studies capital punishment said the move sets Illinois apart from other states that have eliminated the death penalty because many of those places rarely used it.
“Illinois stands out because it was a state that used it, reconsidered it, and now rejected it,’’ said Richard Dieter, of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.
Prosecutors and some victims’ families had urged Quinn to veto the measure.
The governor offered words of consolation to those who had lost loved ones to violence, saying that the “family of Illinois’’ was with them.
Illinois’ moratorium goes back to 2000, when the Republican governor at the time, George Ryan, made headlines by suspending executions.