By: Cal Condon
How exactly can I explain the Capital Punishment System here in Illinois? Well to be honest, I would have to go with, total chaos. For you who dont know what Capital Punishment is, it is the system we use to place criminals who commit very serious crimes on Death Row. Out of the 50 states in our wonderful country, 38 of them have a Capital Punishment System, Illinois being one of them. Recently, while Governor George Ryan was in office, it was decided to halt all executions, making Illinois the first of the 38 states to do so.
Capital Punishment was brought back to Illinois in 1977. From 77 to 87 there were a total of 128 prisoners enrolled on death row. In 1990 alone there were 125 murderers waiting to face the ultimate punishment. Out of those people, a total of 12 people have been executed through lethal injection, but 13 prisoners were released from death row as innocent. 7 of the 12 executed were after 1976, 5 were in 1995 alone. Is it just me, or is this a bit confusing? The Government seemed to get a little death hungry during these years. Its obvious that there are bound to be many other innocent people, sitting in jail cells suffering for a murder that they did not commit.
Governor Ryan stepped in office determined to find out what is wrong with this system in Illinois. He came in actually as a firm believer of the death penalty, but seeing that 13 people were found innocent, Governor Ryan became frustrated and decided to take action. After researching how the system works, and becoming aware of the flaws, the former Governor pardoned 4 more prisoners (Aaron Patterson, Madison Hobley, Stanley Howard and Leroy Orange) who confessed under police torture and convicted because of those confessions. I believe these men are innocent or I wouldnt have pardoned them, the system has failed for all four men and it has failed for all the people of this state. Governor Ryan said at Depaul University. He also believes that there are at least 33 wrongly convicted, and since Capital Punishment was reinstated 93 have been released from custody because they were found innocent.
This system in Illinois is obviously full of error and no one can ever seem to be 100% sure of determining whos guilty and whos innocent, and if they should die or not. As Governor Ryan put it, The Death Penalty is unconstitutional, the Constitution compels it. To say the least, the Capital Punishment system in Illinois and all over the world is very unfair. In the U.S. the most executed are either, psychotic, alcoholic, drug addicted, or mentally unstable, and rarely people with money or prestige are convicted of capital punishment, and hardly ever executed. And in Illinois it is 5% more likely to get put on Death Row for first degree murder in rural areas than it is in Cook County. Does it seem fair that half of the nearly 300 capital cases had been reversed for a new trial or resentencing? Last year, there were about 1000 murders, and only 2% were sentenced to death.
As a free and independent country, we set an example for justice and fairness, but these statistics make us look like we are pulling names out of hats. Not very impressive on our parts! To take a life when a life has been lost is revenge, not justice! stated Reverend Desmond Tutu, speaking about the Death Penalty. Sometimes, we put our minds on getting back at people too fast which causes fault in accusing the person who committed the crime. In most cases the defense lawyers dont even consult with their client. In Illinois there have been a few lawyers found to be convinced the person did the crime and didnt bother talking to the person they are supposed to represent. In many cases the jury, and the judge are so confused by what to do that even more mistakes are committed. This is an embarrassment, its unfair, unjust, and finally the Governor found these flaws, and did something about it.
Should some, all or none of the inmates on Death Row be taken out of Death Row to life with out the possibility of parole? Some believe that the person who was accused of the crime that put them on Death Row should choose what to do with his/her life, while others (like me) believe they should just suffer and rot in jail. Well a lot of the inmates dont want life without parole. Why wouldnt you want to die if you have to sit in a jail cell that is 5ft by 12ft, double bunked, no air-conditioning, where temperatures can exceed over 100 degrees during the summer months. Prisoners should not get this choice. But even as bad as it sounds they do get medical attention, while the surviving victims of these horrible crimes are suffering in pain. Governor Ryan pointed out a specific man who was shot and paralyzed by the same man who killed his brother. The murderer is now in jail getting free health, while the paralyzed man is in extraordinary pain, and struggling to pay his medical bills. That is just another huge flaw in this system.
Governor Ryan was sworn into office and made one of the biggest steps in Illinois history. He halted all executions in Illinois in January of 2000, 156 Death Row Inmates were commuted after he took office, and he saved 4 more innocent mens lives raising the total of falsely accused inmates on Death Row to 17, while only 12 have been executed. He has the constitutional role to act in fairness and in justice. I think he did just that by getting rid of the Capital Punishment System, which seems like a fair and just thing to do. When Illinois Capital Punishment flaws were exposed, Governor Ryan took initiative and wrote a Commission to reduce the chance of sending the innocent people to their deaths and to correct other problems with the states laws. The many recommendations to improve the system were noticed and will be put into place. Death Penalty will not be an option in this state until judges, jury, police and the 120 decision makers are properly trained. So was Governor Ryans choice a good one? Is Illinois Capital Punishment System ever going to straighten out, or was it ok in the first place? We will see in years to come.