Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois (D) signed a bill passed by the Illinois legislature to abolish the death penalty. Illinois became part of a positive trend as the 16th state to outlaw capital punishment. While there are many valid arguments against the death penalty, Quinn focused on the most compelling: the impossibility of guaranteeing that it will not be applied to the wrongfully convicted. In such a case, there is no reversal, one reason why DNA evidence has become so important. Since 1977, Illinois wrongfully condemned 20 people to death (all exonerated); the governor and the legislature made a just decision in ensuring that such convictions do not occur again:
“Since our experience has shown that there is no way to design a perfect death penalty system, free from the numerous flaws that can lead to wrongful convictions or discriminatory treatment, I have concluded that the proper course of action is to abolish it,” Mr. Quinn said in a statement.
At a news conference at the Capitol in Springfield, Mr. Quinn said that signing the bill was the most difficult decision he had made as governor. “I have concluded, after looking at all the information that I have received, that it is impossible to create a perfect system — one that is free of all mistakes,” he said.
Mr. Quinn, a Democrat who became governor in 2009 and was elected to a full term in November, said during the 2010 campaign that he supported the death penalty when applied “carefully and fairly,” but added, “I am deeply concerned by the possibility of an innocent person being executed.” He had kept the question of whether he would sign the bill unanswered since it passed on Jan. 11.
Those on death row will have their sentences commuted to life without the possibility of parole. The law also dedicates funds to law enforcement and services for victims’ families.
The heated debate over the bill had focused on more than a dozen death row prisoners who were found to have been wrongfully convicted — including one man who came within 50 hours of execution. Lawmakers also debated the costs of imposing the death penalty.
...Dozens of family members of victims had signed a letter to the legislature supporting the bill, arguing that capital trials and appeals “drag victims’ loved ones through an agonizing and lengthy process, which often does not result in the intended punishment.”