Illinois May Abolish Capital Punishment
On Tuesday, the Illinois Senate passed S.B. 3539, which would abolish the death penalty in Illinois. The House passed the bill last week. Governor Quinn won’t say whether he’ll sign death penalty repeal, but promised to follow his conscience.
It’s tough to say whether Quinn will sign the bill. During the campaign, he indicated support for both the death penalty and the current moratorium on executions. Sen. Kwame Raoul, the bill’s Senate sponsor, expressed confidence that Quinn will sign the bill despite his support for the death penalty:
“My position is that morally, man ought not put himself in the position of God and man ought not to make that decision,” Raoul said. “Some people … generally believe if people commit certain crimes they ought to be eligible to be put to death. However, they could not argue against the history of its application in Illinois and in the country at large.”
“In other words, Quinn might say, ‘I believe it is OK to put a man to death but I don’t think we ought to risk putting an innocent man to death,'” Raoul went on to note. The governor’s Office in Chicago did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the bill.
I strongly support death penalty abolition. As long as the death penalty exists, I think it is inevitable that we will eventually execute an innocent person. Even if we could be certain that only the guilty would be executed, I would still oppose it. I consider executions barbaric.
Because I feel so strongly about the subject, I am going to break with tradition and encourage readers who oppose the death penalty to email Governor Quinn and urge him to sign S.B. 3539. Feel free to use the text of the email I sent Quinn yesterday:
Dear Governor Quinn,
I am writing to urge you to sign the bill abolishing the death penalty (S.B. 3539).
As you know, Illinois has released 20 wrongfully convicted people from death row. One of those people came within 50 hours of execution. The criminal justice system is bound to make some mistakes, and a mistaken execution is irreversible.
If the death penalty remains legal in Illinois, we will eventually execute an innocent person. Even if you support the death penalty for the guilty, we should not take the risk that it will be applied to the innocent.
Thank you for your consideration,
[Your Name Here]
Sen. Dave Luechtefeld and Rep. Mike Bost, who represent Carbondale, voted against the repeal. The other Southern Illinois legisltators (Sen. Gary Forby, Rep. Dan Reitz, Rep. John Bradley, and Rep. Brandon Phelps) also voted against repeal. If you’re wondering how other legislators voted, the House roll call is here (pdf), and the Senate is here (pdf). The full text of the bill is here.
Comments are welcome.