ACLU of Illinois Commends Release of Report by Governor's Commission on Capital Punishment

Affiliate: ACLU of Illinois
April 15, 2002 12:00 am

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Statement of Mary Dixon, Legislative Director
American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois


CHICAGO–The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois commends the Governor’s Commission on Capital Punishment for its diligent work and considerable attention to addressing problems in Illinois’ failed death penalty system. The recommendations of the Commission, as reflected in the report released today, demonstrate the seriousness and open-minded approach with which the Commission members approached this process.

The report’s careful analysis and close examination of Illinois’ failed death penalty system makes clear that immediate action is necessary to assure the people of Illinois that any criminal justice system, particularly the system for imposing capital punishment, must first and foremost insure accuracy and fairness. The ACLU of Illinois hopes that the members of the Illinois General Assembly will recognize today’s report as a clarion call for action to take immediate, broad and sweeping actions to reform the state’s death penalty system.

The ACLU will work to support the reforms contained in the Commission’s report, and also urges the General Assembly to consider replacing the death penalty with the alternative of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Given the sweeping, intractable problems addressed by the Commission — and other issues including the racially biased nature of capital punishment in our nation — this seems a reasoned step for the General Assembly to adopt.

The scope of today’s report also makes clear that — despite some protests from public officials — significant first steps taken by the Illinois Supreme Court are only the beginning point for addressing problems with Illinois’ failed death penalty system. Those first steps, while critical, do not justify a resumption of executions in our state.

Finally, the ACLU of Illinois hopes that Governor Ryan and the General Assembly will address the plight of the more than one hundred fifty persons currently on death row. It seems incongruent to accept the deliberative findings from this august Commission without considering how to treat fairly those individuals who already were convicted and sentenced under a system that so clearly failed to produce fairness and justice for those charged in capital cases.

Today, the nation again turns its eyes to Illinois for leadership and direction on how to resolve the debate over the future of the death penalty in our nation. The Commission’s report provides a unique opportunity to replace death sentences with life imprisonment, bringing to an end questions about this biased process that produced so many flaws.

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