Democratic Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois today signed Senate Bill 3539, which effectively abolishes the death penalty in the state effective July 1st.
Illinois is now the fourth state in the nation to outlaw the death penalty in the last two years and the 16th overall in the country. He also commuted the sentences of the 15 death row inmates to life without parole. Amongst the 15 death row inmates whose sentence was commuted is Andrew Urdiales who was convicted in 1996 of shooting and stabbing a woman but had confessed to killing seven other women. He was also sentenced to die for killing two Chicago area women but that death sentence was commuted by former Governor George Ryan.
Upon executing the abolishment Quinn made the following statement:
For me, this was a difficult decision, quite literally the choice between life and death. This was not a decision to be made lightly, or a decision that I came to without deep personal reflection.
Since the General Assembly passed this bill, I have met or heard from a wide variety of people on both sides of the issue. I have talked with prosecutors, judges, elected officials, religious leaders from around the world, families of murder victims, people on death row who were exonerated and ordinary citizens who have taken the time to share their thoughts with me. Their experiences, words and opinions have made a tremendous impact on my thinking, and I thank everyone who reached out on this matter.
After their guidance, as well as much thought and reflection, I have concluded that our system of imposing the death penalty is inherently flawed. The evidence presented to me by former prosecutors and judges with decades of experience in the criminal justice system has convinced me that it is impossible to devise a system that is consistent, that is free of discrimination on the basis of race, geography or economic circumstance, and that always gets it right.