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Lawmakers To Debate Abolishing Death Penalty

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Illinois Death Row

Illinois’ death row is located at the Pontiac Correctional Center in downstate Livingston County. (Credit: AP)

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – Illinois legislators are about to begin the debate over whether the death penalty should be done away with for good.

A state House Criminal Law Committee voted 4-3 to take the measure to the full House.

One of the activists working to pass the law is Jerry Hobbs, who spent five years in jail on charges of killing his daughter and her friend before DNA exonerated him. His attorneys say prosecutors forced his confession.

As WBBM Newsradio’s 780’s John Hultman reports, Gov. George Ryan put a hold on executions in Illinois in 2000 after 13 men on death row had been exonerated on the grounds that their confessions were forced as Hobbs’ was. Ryan also cleared out death row, commuting the sentences of all condemned inmates in Illinois at the time.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780′s John Hultman Reports


Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and current Gov. Pat Quinn have continued with the moratorium even after death penalty reforms were put into place. Prosecutors have continued to seek the death penalty and there are now 15 inmates on death row and a governor could resume executions at any time.

The measure under debate would abolish the death penalty altogether in Illinois. Proponents say the death penalty doesn’t deter crime, is expensive and the system is long and tortuous.

But state Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst) says some of the worst murder cases deserve the death penalty, and Quinn expressed support for it.

Even if the General Assembly approves abolishing it, Quinn would have the final say.

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