Illinois Abolishes the Death Penalty

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Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Illinois governor Pat Quinn abolished the death penalty today. "It's not possible to create a perfect, mistake-free death penalty system," Quinn declared. More than a decade ago the state issued a moratorium on executions after wrongly condemning thirteen men. Quinn, who spent two months speaking with prosecutors, victims' families, death penalty opponents, and religious leaders, also commuted the sentences of all fifteen state inmates on death row. They will now serve life in prison. Quinn called it the "most difficult decision" he has made as governor, saying, "I think if you abolish the death penalty in Illinois, we should abolish it for everyone." Illinois is the fifteenth state to have abolished capital punishment. With Quinn's decision, anti-death penalty advocates hope to create "a national wave" of opposition. But in New Mexico, which became the most recent state to abolish the death penalty, in 2009, Republican governor Governor Susana Martinez is trying to reinstate it.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court ruled against the state of Texas and in favor of Henry "Hank" Skinner's right to test DNA evidence from the crime scene not originally examined. Although the 6-to-3 vote won't get him out of the death penalty, it gives Skinner, who came within 45 minutes of being executed, a chance to prove his innocence. During an interview with CNN last year, Skinner said:

"All the district attorney has got to do is turn over the evidence and test it, and let the chips fall where they may. If I'm innocent I go home, if I'm guilty I die. What's so hard about that?"


Illinois Abolishes Death Penalty [AP via NRP]
Quotes about abolition of Illinois' death penalty after Gov. Quinn sign bill [Fox 2 Now]
Supreme Court says Texas inmate has right to DNA testing [CNN]
Related: Texas and the Death Penalty: Ur Doing It Wrong