Illinois repeals the death penalty

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, March 9, 2011 10:23 EDT
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UPDATE (3:05 p.m. EST): The Governor of Illinois has signed a bill repealing the death penalty and commuting the sentences of 15 men

Today, Illinois is expected to officially end the practice of state-sanctioned murder. It only took them 232 years.

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, a supporter of capital punishment, was reportedly on track to sign a bill abolishing the death penalty. The bill has been on his desk since early January, after it cleared the state’s Senate by a vote of 32-25.

Confirmation that the governor would sign the bill came from Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D), who told The Chicago Tribune that the governor’s people said it would happen Wednesday.

“They point-blank told me they were signing the bill (Wednesday),” she reportedly said.

The move to end the state’s long history of official murder was reportedly praised by President Barack Obama, who met with Gov. Quinn last week in the White House.

“The governor said Barack had complimented him and the state on our work on civil unions and the death penalty,” state Sen. Kwame Raoul (D) told The Chicago Sun-Times.

Capital punishment has been on hold in Illinois for the last 11 years, after a Republican governor, George Ryan, suspended it.

“We have now freed more people than we have put to death under our system — 13 people have been exonerated and 12 have been put to death,” he said at the time, in prepared remarks. “There is a flaw in the system, without question, and it needs to be studied.”

Contacted by the Sun-Times, a spokesperson with the governor’s office refused to confirm that the governor would be signing the bill.

He has until March 18 to either sign it or issue a veto.

Illinois has executed 360 prisoners since the state was incorporated.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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