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The Mechanics
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Justice Tue Jan 11 2011

State Senate Votes to Abolish the Death Penalty

The death penalty is almost history in Illinois. From Progress Illinois:

The State Senate followed the lead of the House and approved the bill (SB 3539) by a 32-25 margin this afternoon. The legislation, if signed, would end the practice and redirect money the state pays in death row prosecution and defense fees ($100 million in the past seven years alone) to support law enforcement training and programs for the families of murder victims. It now heads to Gov. Pat Quinn, where it faces an uncertain future.

Since 1977, 13 Illinois men since have been exonerated for murders they did no commit; several investigations found that dubious evidence, racial discrimination, and prosecutorial misconduct tainted many of those cases. The use of the death penalty is declining nationwide. Fifteen other states do not sentence criminals to death.

There has been a de facto ban on the death penalty for the past for a decade after it was found that a number of innocent prisoners had been executed. According to the Trib's Clout Street blog, "[s]ponsoring Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, urged his colleagues to 'join the civilized world' and end the death penalty in Illinois" during the debate.

Raoul spoke of how authorities were certain when they prosecuted Jerry Hobbs and Kevin Fox for killing their own little girls. Both confessed under coercion and both were exonerated by DNA evidence. The senator spoke of is 10-year-old daughter and how he could not imagine what a wrongly accused father would go through.

Illinois "ought to be embarrassed" by its track record of wrongful convictions, Raoul said, "because if an execution were to take place, it takes place in the name of the people of Illinois."

Regardless of whether you think the death penalty is good policy in general, it's hard to argue with the decision to abolish it in a state where false confessions were obtained under coercion or even torture.

 
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