Quinn Signs Death Penalty Ban

UPDATED 03/09/11 1:17 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Gov. Pat Quinn has signed legislation ending the death penalty in Illinois.

The governor also commuted the sentences of 15 death row inmates to life in prison.

“This is the most difficult decision that I have made as governor,” Quinn said at the state capitol in Springfield on Wednesday. “I studied everything to the best of my ability and followed my conscience.”

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mike Krauser reports

When the ban takes effect on July 1, Illinois will be the 16th state in the U.S. to abolish the death penalty. Until then, prosecutors may continue to seek the death penalty in murder cases and judges and juries may continue to sentence convicted killers to death.

Quinn did not specifically say on Wednesday whether he would commute such future sentences to life in prison, although he did say, “I believe if we abolish the death penalty in Illinois, we should abolish it for everyone.”

The governor’s move to clear out death row was the second time in state history that a governor has done so by commuting the sentence of every inmate who had been sentenced to death to life in prison

In 2003, then-Gov. George Ryan cleared out death row as he was leaving office, commuting the sentences of 167 inmates to life in prison, citing concerns about flaws in the state’s capital punishment system.

Three years earlier, Ryan had enacted a moratorium on the death penalty and it has been in place ever since, even after a number of reforms were enacted to avoid mistakes in death penalty cases.

In signing the death penalty ban on Wednesday, Quinn cited the state’s long history of mistakes in death penalty cases, pointing out that 20 former Illinois death row inmates have been set free after they were later exonerated.

“We have tried over and over again to come up with a perfect system that makes no mistakes with respect to carrying out the death penalty.” “I think we have to come to the realization that it is not possible to create a perfect, mistake-free death penalty system.”

Quinn said he believes a sentence of life without the possiblity of parole is a just punishment for criminals who commit the most heinous murders.

“We need to have punishment for those that commit those crimes that is never-ending,” Quinn said.

The governor also offered a message to the families of murder victims, saying “there are no words in the English language or any language to relieve your pain and I understand that.”

“It’s impossible, I’m sure, to ever be healed,” Quinn added, saying that the entire state shares their grief. “We want to be with you. You’re not alone in your grief.”

Quinn also said that he has established a new trust fund to provide support for the families of murder victims and to provide aid to local police departments in preventing murder. It will be funded with money that had previously been committed to the Capital Litigation Trust Fund, which was created to provide defense attorneys and prosecutors access to sufficient resources to cover the costs of death penalty cases.

Two state lawmakers who sponsored the death penalty ban, state Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D-Maywood) and Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), were invited to the signing ceremony in Springfield, which was conducted in a private in Quinn’s office.

Yarbrough said before the signing that given how much pain the bill is likely to cause families of victims, it was appropriate to sign the bill into law without fanfare.

No one feels any sympathy for death row inmates, she said.

“There’s probably a real quiet place in hell for them when they leave this earth,” Yarbrough said, “but I don’t think Illinois – or any state for that matter – should be in the business of executing its citizens.”

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Regine Schlesinger reports

In January, state lawmakers approved a bill to end executions as a way to punish criminals, effective July 1. The legislation would not have affected the 15 inmates who were already on death row, but Quinn commuted their sentences to life in prison on Wednesday.

In the past, Quinn has said he supports the death penalty when properly applied. He said from the beginning that he wants to hear from constituents and would follow his conscience.

Asked to comment on the issue, Mayor Richard M. Daley said as a former prosecutor, he supports the death penalty. But he was not critical of Quinn’s choice to sign the law banning it.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Craig Dellimore reports

“I believe in DNA testing. It should be a part of every (jurisdiction). It prevents abuse,” Daley said. “That solves all the human issues.”

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel applauded Quinn’s decision, saying “It’s the right thing to do and I’m glad he made that decision. Obviously he thought hard about it.”

Meantime, DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin was outraged by Quinn’s decision, calling the death penalty ban “a victory for murderers across Illinois.”

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bob Roberts reports

Berlin said he was especially incensed that Quinn commuted the sentences of 15 death row inmates, particularly Brian Dugan, who was sentenced to death last year for the 1983 rape and murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico.

“Evidence in Brian Dugan’s case showed that many of his other rape victims, he spared their life because he was afraid of receiving the death penalty,” Berlin said.

Berlin said DuPage County prosecutors were still working on one case that could produce a death sentence. Gary Schuning, 28, is charged with killing his mother and during an argument in their Addison home in 2006.

He is also accused of calling an escort after killing his mother and then killing that woman, Kristi Hoenig, of Chicago, after the escort found a bloody knife in his bathroom.

Berlin said he would meet with his staff in the next two weeks to decide how to proceed.

Even before Quinn signed off on the death penalty ban, State Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) had introduced legislation to bring back the death penalty, while reserving it for the worst of the worst: serial killers, and murderers of children, cops and witnesses.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s John Cody reports

Dillard, who co-chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he believes the majority of Illinois residents still support the death penalty. And he said he supports a state wide death penalty referendum called for by State Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst).

Dillard noted that death penalty abolition passed during a lame duck legislative session, suggesting the issue needs a fuller state wide discussion.

The senator said he respects Governor Quinn’s decision to sign the bill, even though he believes the death penalty should stay in place in limited circumstances. He said he’s moved a bit on the issue himself to demanding greater limits on the death penalty.

He wants to see the death penalty re-instated but with two additional safeguards:

1. It only be applied in the cases of especially heinous multiple murders or killings of children, cops and witnesses.
2. It be applied only after a state wide panel of judges and prosecutors has agreed that the capitol punishment is called for and that the killing is being done in a matter that’s fair and balanced by race, gender and geography.

In 2000, then-Gov. George Ryan imposed a moratorium on the death penalty, in the wake of a scandal of innocent people being sent to death row.

Just before he left office in 2003, Ryan also commuted the sentences of everyone on death row at the time and released four condemned men who alleged they had been victims of torture by Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge.

The last execution in Illinois was in 1999. Andrew Kokoraleis was executed by lethal injection for the 1982 kidnapping, rape and murder of a woman in Elmhurst.

From 1977, when the death penalty was reinstated, to the moratorium in 2000, the state freed 13 men from death row and executed 12, according to published reports.

During his campaign last year, Quinn said he would keep the moratorium in place, while opponent Bill Brady said he would lift it.

Considering the track record in Illinois, Yarbrough said abolishing the death penalty is the right course of action.

“We’ve had 20 people to be exonerated from death row, and that gives pause,” Yarbrough said.

  • mark

    keep the death penalty only thing is start using it- over crowded prison over taxed communities crime ridden streets. public hangings and charge admission.

    • lotsoflaughs

      If you haven’t checked out this blog yet you should. It’s full of some funny stories and is all clean stuff. I’m hoping to get more readers in hopes of publishing someday. I need all the help I can get and so if you like it please tell family and friends about it. http://www.jaredslighterside.blogspot.com

  • Tax Payer

    Why should the tax payer have to keep supporting all these murderers?? Big mistake abolishing the Death Penalty. But do I expect anything different from IL politicians?

  • RM

    This issue should be decided by the citizens of the State of Illinois, not politicians. This is a slap in the face to every victim’s family. Don’t sign this Bill..Let the people decide!.

    • KE

      I agree

  • southside

    Quinn is so spineless he can’t even make up his mind on this bill. What person with a half a brain would need months to decide? His inner liberal seems to have won out. Yet another wrong decision that doesn’t represent the majority of Illinoisians. Quinn’s got to go.

    • KE

      I hate this whole thing — but the bill apparently has to be signed so that the new revised bill can be entered to reinstate the death penalty in Illinois.

      Right now people sit on Death Row for YEARS — all at a major cost to the taxpayers — mostly due to all the outcry of certain liberal groups.

      Dillard is on the right track, but he has to alter his notion about balancing the death penalty by race, sex, geography and the like.

      The death penalty has to be issued (by a panel) and executed in a timely manner — no more waiting decades!!!

    • Jim

      I’m going with the notion that Quinn’s IQ is hovering around a 22 so this makes total sense to me.

  • darrin erickson

    i heard wbbm talking about this all night. not once did they imply the backlash & negative reactive he’ll be starting by it. they are an insidiously liberal station, as is cbs in general. quinn is cutting his own throat by doing this. and the hard-core tea-part members like myself will be right there to take over.

  • Mr. Justice

    Quinn is spineless. He doesn’t care about the families of victims, nor does he care about our tax dollars being used to pay over $45,000 per year per inmate.

    I, for one, am sick of this spineless man and it is time the tax paying citizens of Illinois stand up and say, “Enough is Enough”!

    • KE

      Then you should try electing a REPUBLICAN for Illinois

    • Roberta Waker

      Unfortunately you won’t find enough people in Illinois with the balls necessary to do something about Quinn and our other “representatives” in Illinois. We need a good old fashioned revolution, not only in Illinois, but in the United States as a whole.

      • American Citizen

        I agree. The law makers are tearing this country appart. Now we have to pay for keeping inmates in prison. What about these victims that didn’t ask to be killed. Killers don’t have a right to be spared!!!

  • Kevin

    Your right Illinois has a surplus of money, let’s keep them around and have taxpayers pay for them for thre rest of their lives – perfect!

  • Roberta Waker

    Let’s see – now I can kill someone and if found guilty, I will go to a country club with free medical, dental, room and board, education and never again have to work a day in my life. And I won’t ever have to pay anymore taxes. Sounds pretty good to me.

  • http://wxrt.radio.com/2011/03/09/governor-quinn-and-the-executioners-last-song/ Governor Quinn And The Executioner’s Last Song

    […] CBS is reporting that the legislative sponsors, Il. Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) and Il. Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D-Maywood) have been invited to Springfield today for the signing ceremony. […]

  • Margo Schulter

    Governor Quinn is to be congratulated for his reported decision to sign the bill. In fact life imprisonment without possibility of parole is less expensive than the extraordinary costly and lengthy legal process when the state seeks to kill a subdued prison, however horrible the crime. Life without parole means swift justice for family members of murder victims, one reason why many of them support this bill, although there is certainly opinion on both sides. A swift and certain sentence of life without parole, plus better victims’ services and law enforcement efforts to prevent violent crimes and catch the perpetrators more reliably (while protecting innocents of the kind who have been exonerated from Death Row in Illinois and other states), is a path to fiscal and moral solvency.

    • Mr. Justice

      You are mistaken. A swift penalty for murders is a 5.56 round in the head.
      That is less than .50 per round.
      No, we, the tax payers of Illinois, are sick and tired of paying to house inmates for years and now, for life. The cost is $45,000 or more per year. I am sick and tired of the puking liberals who want to spare everyone’s life. They have no concept of evil and how to deal with it!

    • Roberta Waker

      Are you taking into consideration free room and board, medical, dental, education, food, Social Security (in some cases) – as a reward for killing someone? What about a child that has been raped, tortured and finally murdered – does their killer deserve life in a country club with all of the above? I doubt if the family thinks they do. The death penalty is NEEDED to discourage killings – instead lack of it will encourage more killings. Wake up, Illinois.

  • KE

    It be applied only after a state wide panel of judges and prosecutors has agreed that the capitol punishment is called for and that the killing is being done
    What the heck is THAT!!!
    A heinous murder is a heinous murderer — if they are all say Black from Chicago, all Mecxican from Elgin, all White from Springfield should NOT matter.
    A killer is a killer is a killer!!!! There is NO blalance.

    If they are all women — all the women should die — if they are all men — all the men should die!!!

  • Dhorn

    If we have to support them for the rest of their lives, let’s make them work and charge them room and board. Also, no TV’s, no gyms to work out in, no frills whatsoever. Why should they have things that the average worker doesn’t have.

    • KE


    • Roberta Waker

      See the articles on Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona and how he treats prisoners in Arizona. They have to have cable so he gives them the Disney Channel; he also has them wearing pink boxer shorts and a lot of other neat things. Don’t think he gets too many repeat offenders in his prison.

  • Mr. Justice

    Well, as I read these comments, it appears to me that most of you who have made comments agree with me. There are only 1 or 2 who want to abolish the death penalty. Quinn has no integrity, no concept of morality, and definitely has no clue as to what the TAX PAYING CITIZENS of Illinois want. What an idiot!

  • jerry

    maybe that MORON QUINN would think a little different if his grand daughter or daughter got raped and then tortured to death but then this miseririble excuse for humanity named Quinn could visit the offender weekly–apparently his kind of people.

    • Roberta Waker

      Amen to that.

  • Lew

    I agree with Mr. Justice. Quinn is a government puppet that has never worked in the private sector. He has absolutely no idea what we middle-class taxpayers go through. He only wants for us to keep funding the bloated salaries and pensions of surly county employees and lazy teachers. I resent the fact that we the people could not decide this. It’s left to a liberal fool. I hate everything this guy does.

  • Mr. Justice

    Control! Quinn and Daley are all about control. Rahm is the same way.
    I prefer a government BY the People FOR the People. Don’t forget, these stinking politicians work for US. Unfortunately, people that are on welfare and do not pay taxes have the right to vote. But, that’s another issue.

  • Mike Fangman

    Maybe you morons would think a little different if you were wrongly incarcerated by prosecutors who were more concerned with getting a notch on their belt than they were with justice being served and withholding evidence that would exonerate you.

    • Mr. Justice

      Yea, that is one out of 1,000 cases you idiot Mike Fangman. Those of us, that do not commit crimes, are not worried about it. Go have a drink with your other puking liberal friends.

      • rivroowalker

        So getting the death penalty wrong 1 out of 1000 times is ok? I guess if you aren’t that 1…

  • Jim

    Waste more taxes. I also love how Quinn has at least 5 people watching him sign, probably all on the taxpayers dime! They probably each needed to remember 1 letter in his name so he could remember how to spell it.

    • Jim

      Also, I would be fine with there being a law that there needs to be DNA evidence for a death sentence. That way nobody would be wrongly convicted.

  • Steve Jones

    My lord Quinn really needs to go. Raises taxes, bans the death penalty, plans on vetoing the concealed carry law…I wish I could afford to move out of this state but with our government working overtime to ensure there are no jobs in Illinois, I might find myself hitch hiking to texas with nothing but the clothes on my back

    • Mr. Justice

      That sob Quinn, better not veto a Conceal Carry Law if it arrives on his desk. The “law abiding citizens” of Illinois want the right to protect ourselves. I encourage everyone who agrees with capital punishment and is for Conceal Carry Permits here in Illinois, to contact your state representatives tomorrow and Friday. Forty-eight other states have CCW, and Wisconsin has a form of Open Carry. ILLINOIS is the ONLY STATE that does not allow CCW other than Wisconsin, and Wisconsin will be implementing CCW this year. COME ON PEOPLE, CALL YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVES AND TELL THEM YOU WANT THEM TO VOTE FOR CCW !

      • Mr. Justice

        >>>>>>>>>RIVROOWLKER. It’s called the First Amendment. And for your information, moron, if we have CCW here in Illinois, our crime rate would decrease. Perhaps, if you did your research, you would find that states that have CCW have a lower crime rate.

      • rivroowlker

        Man you are a broken record. Is there any news article that doesn’t lead to you demanding the right to carry a gun in your pants?

  • Mike Fangman

    How many of you out there who support the death penalty are pro-life?

    Isn’t “pro-life” about preserving all life?

    • The Truth

      You are a fool, and normally I wouldn’t waste the time of day responding to such BS, but alas I was compelled to say this………………….how dare you compare the two!!! I’m sure you’re a liberal democrat and are therefore a huge part of the problem with this country becoming the cesspool that it has.

      • Mr. Justice


      • The Truth

        @ Mr Justice……………I applaud your comments as well !!!!! BRAVO!!

      • Mike Fangman

        So you stop caring about people once they’re out of the womb?

      • Steve Jones

        I stop caring about people when they take the life of another human without justification. These are not scholars and soldiers and great people on death row, they are child raping, sociopath thugs who would rather buy a gun and kill someone than get an education and a job. Their death is no loss to society.

  • Tom

    The comments left by the pro-death penalty folks are all the reason I need to say this: Gov. Quinn absolutely, positively did the right thing. The death penalty is not about justice. It is about bloodlust and vengance, pure and simple.

    For the record: no, I have not been a victim of a violent crime; nor has any member of my family. And no, I wouldn’t change my mind if I, or a family member, became a victim in the future. And no, I don’t mind housing murderers in a dark, dark hole for the rest of their lives, at tens of thousands of dollars of year, with my tax dollars (and, yes, everybody else’s) — the expense of the barbarity that is the death penalty is much greater. And no, I don’t feel any different about child murderers or serial rapists or anybody else — so long as they are locked up and never let out, I am happy.

    Come on. Call me a bleeding heart liberal. I dare you. Meanwhile, I will sleep more than comfortably tonight knowing that my governor did something good.

    • Roberta Waker

      Reply when your daughter, sister, mother, or someone dear to you has been tortured, raped and/or murdered. If there is no death penalty; there is no deterrent to killing someone. I could kill you, be found guilty (maybe) and spend the rest of my life in a country club getting free everything, not paying any taxes while suckers like you support my every need and then some. Sounds like a good deal to me.

    • Mr. Justice

      You’re an idiot Tom. Pure and simple, an idiot.

      • Mike Fangman

        Are you challenging me to a fight? Classic internet tough guy.

      • Mr. Justice

        Hey, Fangman, any time any place. I am sick and tired of puking liberals like you ruining our society and country.

      • Mike Fangman

        Thanks for showing the maturity of a five-year-old by resorting to name-calling.

  • Sandy

    I am currently a registered Democrat who is very much ashamed of this party and can no longer be associated with it and will as soon as possible change my party with voters registration. Governor Quinn did not vote his conscious but the way his party wanted him to vote. Our local state representative resently spoke to a group of local officials and said that at least Quinn wasn’t evil like our former two governors. If he isn’t evil than he is stupid. So which is it? Governor Quinn has shown no integrity, has no concept of maorality and definetely has no clue what the citizens of illinois want or how to be a practical businessman. He has always been a politician and will want to please his party and not the people. I am so sick of the corruption in Illinois and that most people now expect that to be the norm. Chicago politicians are killing what little moral fiber we have left in our government and it is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. Daniel Ramsey is on death row for the 1996 murder of two teenage girls. He also shot two toddlers ( 3 and 4) in an atempt to kill them for crying and shot another teenage in the head. There is no doubt about his guilty but did Governor Quinn think about those families and victims living with the disabilities he put on them? The State of iIllinois has already spent the money on these trials and the 15 on death row are definetly guility…no falsely accused in this grand bunch of murders. I feel physically ill for the families that have lost loved ones. SHAME on you and may Quinn be out of office very soon. God help the State of Illinois.


    They system is so broken. We must fix the system be for putting anyone to death. Everycase should be looked into. Look at all those people who sent most of of there life behind bars and DID NOT DO THE CRIME. Now some of them are out and having a very hard time to adjust to life. WE NEED TO FIX THE SYSTEM. Glad this was done.

    • Shelly

      You’re an idiot just like Tom above.

      • Mike Fangman

        Resorting to name-calling. Real mature.

  • partyboi

    Thank you Jon Burge & Mayor Daly for sending the innocent to death row paving the road for Death penalty to be abolished. Giving Brian Dugan the PRIVILEGE of dying an old man. Had you done your jobs correctly and solved crimes with the guilty instead the innocent this would not have happened. I personally lay this at both of you losers door step. You both should be in prison for life without parole.
    My God not have mercy on your souls. You will be judged and you will pay.

    • Steve Jones

      Jon Burge was never convicted of the crime he was accused of. Not to mention the people who accused him were guilty of killing a police officer, but they are innocent and the big mean police mans beat on them..

      • Steve Jones

        convicted of perjury. not torture. and the Wilson brothers were not only convicted once after being allegedly coerced to confess they were RE-CONVICTED later. So do you want to continue to discuss facts?

      • Mike Fangman

        Yes, they confessed. You’d be surprised what you’d confess to if you were being tortured.

      • Mike Fangman

        About Burge, you’re not going to let the facts get in the way of your story. Burge was convicted and sentenced to 4 1/2 years.

  • Cheryl H

    We didn’t vote for the Governor to vote HIS conscience….his job is to listen to the voice of the citizens who overwhilemingly support the death penalty. Another promise broken….we shouldn’t be surprised

blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Weather Reports Delivered To You!SIGN UP NOW: Get daily weather reports every morning from meteorologist Steve Baskerville!
CBS Sports Radio RoundupGet your latest sports talk from across the country.

Listen Live