Illinois abolishes death penalty

March 9, 2011 at 1:46 PM
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CHICAGO, March 9 (UPI) -- Calling the system broken, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn Wednesday signed a bill eliminating the death penalty.

The governor, saying the decision was difficult, also commuted the sentences of 15 inmates currently on death row to life without parole.

"Since our experience has shown that there is no way to design a perfect death penalty system, free from the numerous flaws that can lead to wrongful convictions or discriminatory treatment, I have concluded that the proper course of action is to abolish it," Quinn wrote. "With our broken system, we cannot ensure justice is achieved in every case."

The Chicago Tribune reported several lawmakers were on hand for the signing, including the bill's lead sponsors.

The action makes Illinois the 16th state without capital punishment.

Illinois reinstated the death penalty in 1977 and executed 12 prisoners, the first in 1990. Nine years later Gov. George Ryan imposed a moratorium on executions after more than a dozen condemned inmates were cleared. At that time, Ryan commuted the sentences of the 164 inmates awaiting execution.

Among those executed in Illinois was serial killer John Wayne Gacy, convicted of killing 33 young men and boys but suspected in the deaths of dozens more.

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