Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Illinois Capital Punishment Laws

In Illinois, capital punishment laws were not enforced after Gov. George Ryan (1999-2003) imposed a moratorium in 2000, citing flaws in the system (including wrongful convictions and inadequate defenses).

In a 2011 closed-door ceremony, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill that made Illinois the 16th state to abolish the death penalty.

In 2000, then Republican Gov. George Ryan's moratorium on executions was born out of the fear of executing the innocent. Ryan had been an ardent supporter of the death penalty, but changed his mind when he saw a rising number of exonerations of death row inmates in Illinois courts.

Before the moratorium, Illinois had executed 360 people, 358 men and two women since 1779 when a man named “Manuel” was convicted of witchcraft and burned at the stake, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The first execution after Illinois became a state was John Killduck who was hanged for murder on July 14, 1819. Illinois used hanging has its method of capital punishment until 1928. From that point until 1962, criminals were electrocuted. The state did not kill another person until 1990 when it used lethal injection.

Since the early 1600s, there have been more than 15,700 executions recorded on American soil. More than half of those deaths were by hanging. The biggest number of executions in one year happened in 1935, when 149 people were electrocuted, 45 hanged and three sent to the gas chamber. Virginia has conducted the most executions in U.S. history with 1,385, followed by Texas with 1,221.

The final execution in Illinois happened on March 7, 1999 when the state sent to death a man accused of taking part in the kidnappings, rapes and mutilation murders of 18 women.

Learn more about Illinois capital punishment laws (or the lack thereof) by following the links below. Check out FindLaw's Death Penalty section for more details about the history of capital punishment in the U.S.

Code Section -
Is Capital Punishment Allowed? No
Effect of Defendant's Incapacity -
Minimum Age -
Available for Crimes Other than Homicide? -
Definition of Capital Homicide -
Method of Execution -

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact an Illinois criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Research the Law

Related Resources for Capital Punishment Laws

Was this helpful?

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.

Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Complex criminal defense situations usually require a lawyer
  • Defense attorneys can help protect your rights
  • A lawyer can seek to reduce or eliminate criminal penalties

Get tailored advice and ask your legal questions. Many Illinois attorneys offer free consultations.


 If you need an attorney, find one right now.

Copied to clipboard

Find a Lawyer

More Options