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Illinois Death Penalty Ban Signed by Governor

By Jason Beahm on March 10, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Illinois death penalty is on the way out.

The state's Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, signed a law abolishing capital punishment in the state. In addition, Quinn commuted the sentences of all 15 inmates on death row. The state has been dealing with capital punishment related legal dramas for over a decade after a number of wrongful convictions caused the Republican Governor George Ryan to put a moratorium on the Illinois death penalty in 2000.

The new law takes effect on July 1, making Illinois the fourth state in only the last two years to end the death penalty, Reuters reports. New York, New Jersey and New Mexico all ended the practice recently. Once the Illnois ban goes into effect, that will make 16 states without the option of capital punishment and 34 states as well as federal law allowing it.

"[W]e cannot have a death-penalty system in our state which kills innocents, and unfortunately our system was in grave danger of doing exactly that in 20 instances," he told CNN reports. Quinn continued that he believed after review that it was impossible to have a fair and just system that included capital punishment. "I think it's the right and just thing to abolish the death penalty and punish those who commit heinous crimes, evil people, with life in prison without parole or any chance of release," said Quinn.

"It is naive to think that we haven't executed an innocent person. We stop looking after they're executed," said Ron Safer, a defense attorney that has defended Illinois death penalty cases. The United States nearly stands alone in Western democracy as a nation that still allows capital punishment.

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