Outgoing Illinois governor commutes 156 death sentences
Wow. For once, some good news! From the AP ("Illinois death row cleared"):
Gov. George Ryan said Saturday he was clearing the state's death row and commuting the sentences of all 156 inmates who had been condemned to die. He warned victims' families by overnight letter that the move was coming.Again I say, wow. Ryan, by the way, is a Republican--unlike his pro-death penalty replacement:
“Our capital system is haunted by the demon of error -- error in determining guilt, and error in determining who among the guilty deserves to die,” Ryan said in prepared remarks Saturday.
“Because of all these reasons, today I am commuting the sentences of all death row inmates,” he said.
Ryan, who leaves office on Monday, had halted all executions in the state nearly three years earlier after courts found that 13 Illinois death row inmates had been wrongly convicted since capital punishment resumed in 1977 -- a period when 12 other inmates were executed.
He said studies since that moratorium was issued had only raised more questions about the how the death penalty was imposed. He cited problems with trials, sentencing, the appeals process and the state's “spectacular failure” to reform the system.
“Because the Illinois death penalty system is arbitrary and capricious -- and therefore immoral -- I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death,” he said.
Incoming Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat... criticized Ryan's action, calling blanket clemency “a big mistake.” Each case should be reviewed individually, Blagojevich said. “You're talking about people who've committed murder.”More thoughts from Body and Soul, Matthew Yglesias, Uppity Negro and Atrios' readers.
Now, I don't know much about Mr. Ryan, so I'm not about to make any blanket statements like "he's a great man." But I will say that I think he did a great thing, and it sounds like he did it for the right reasons, too.