The State of Illinois has finally abolished the death penalty. The repeal takes effect July 1st, but Governor Pat Quinn ended it for all practical purposes today:
"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," Quinn wrote. "With our broken system, we cannot ensure justice is achieved in every case."
"For the same reason, I have also decided to commute the sentences of those currently on death row to natural life imprisonment, without the possibility of parole or release," the governor wrote.
The ban comes about 11 years after then-Gov. George Ryan declared a moratorium on executions after 13 condemned inmates were cleared since Illinois reinstated capital punishment in 1977. Ryan, a Republican, cited a Tribune investigative series that examined each of the state's nearly 300 capital cases and exposed how bias, error and incompetence undermined many of them.
Illinois joins 15 other states that no longer have (or never had) capital punishment. Note that the United States is the only developed country that still executes criminals. Other countries with capital punishment include our friends North Korea, China, Iran, Libya, Zimbabwe, and Syria. Countries that have abolished it include Venezuela, South Africa, Turkey, Ukraine, and Nicaragua—plus, of course, Canada, all of Europe except Belarus, Latvia, and Russia (though Russia has abolished it in practice), and the rest of NATO.
(An aside: apparently Illinois is the last place in the U.S. someone was executed for witchcraft, though this happened in 1779, before Illinois existed.)
I'm proud to have voted for Pat Quinn, and I'm glad my state has the moral courage to end this barbaric practice.