‘The Moral High Ground’: ILLINOIS ABOLISHES DEATH PENALTY
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has signed a historic bill repealing the state’s death penalty, ending 232 years of state-sanctioned murder in the Land of Lincoln. “I think we’ll be on the right side of history,” state representative Karen Yarbrough, the bill’s primary sponsor, triumphantly told the Chicago Sun-Times. The governor commuted the death sentences of 15 men on death row, including that of convicted serial killer Brian Dugan, who murdered 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico in 1983. Illinois now joins 15 other US states that have abolished the death penalty since the late 1970s.
Governor Quinn, a Democrat, campaigned as a death penalty supporter, although he vowed to keep in place a moratorium on executions enacted by former governor George Ryan. Ryan made history when he issued a blanket commutation, emptying the state’s death row of all 164 inmates before he left office in 2003. Ryan’s action reflected the shambolic state of Illinois’ capital punishment system, one which saw more convicted killers exonerated of their crimes than executed. “We have now freed more people than we have put to death under our system,” Ryan famously noted, “13 people have been exonerated and 12 have been put to death. There is a flaw in the system.” The state’s last execution took place in 1999, when serial killer and satanic cultist Andrew Kokoraleis was killed by lethal injection.
Death penalty supporters are incensed at the governor’s decision, but Rep. Yarbrough is right: Quinn’s repeal places him squarely on the right side of history. The United States is the only Western industrialized country that still carries out executions, a practice considered abhorrently archaic and barbaric by most of the world today.
The Sun-Times reports that President Barack Obama praised Quinn’s decision at a White House meeting last week. The President also lauded Quinn’s historic legislation allowing for civil unions for same-sex couples.
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