Wed March 9, 2011
The Two-Way

Illinois Abolishes Death Penalty, Clears Death Row

Illinois has banned the death penalty, becoming the sixteenth state to abolish capital punishment for convicted prisoners. Gov. Patrick Quinn signed the bill to end the practice and commuted the sentences of 15 inmates who had been on the state's Death Row.

In a report for Newscast, Cheryl Corley reports:

The abolition of the death penalty in Illinois has been in the making for 11 years. It was in the year 2000 that then-Gov.George Ryan issued a moratorium on executions, after 13 inmates condemned to death had their sentences overturned.

Later, Ryan would clear death row. Since then, the state has approved several reforms but the state's current governor, Patrick Quinn, said he signed the bill abolishing the death penalty because it is a system that's impossible to make perfect.

The AP quotes Ryan saying, "We have found over and over again: Mistakes have been made. Innocent people have been freed. It's not possible to create a perfect, mistake-free death penalty system."

The Chicago Sun-Times quoted Ryan as he sought to empathize with the families of victims in the cases that just had their sentences commuted:

There are no words in the English language or any language to relieve your pain, and I understand that.

I listened with all my heart to every one of those families. The family of Illinois, all 13 million people who live in Illinois, we want to be with you. You are not alone in your grief.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.