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Many Angry About Ban On Death Penalty

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Cathy Drobney

Cathy Drobney, the mother of a murder victim, is furious about Gov. Pat Quinn’s decision to abolish the death penalty in Illinois. (Credit: CBS)

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OAK LAWN, Ill. (CBS) – Gov. Pat Quinn says he followed his conscience when he decided to abolish the death penalty in Illinois.

Quinn signed the bill abolishing the death penalty into law on Wednesday, and critics of capital punishment are applauding the move.

But as CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman reports, not everyone is happy about the fact that inmates on death row will now live.

Of the 15 faces that remained on Death Row, Oak Lawn police officers knew one of them. His name is Ricardo Harris, and Oak Lawn police Lt. Joe Stubbs called him a “cold-blooded killer.”

In 1999, Harris robbed a liquor store and shot four people. Two of them died.

Stubbs saw one of the victims in his final moments.

“I talked with the manager and tried to give him whatever aid I could,” Stubbs said.

So when he heard the death penalty is going away, Stubbs had a strong reaction.

“A little outraged; I mean, what he did, taking lives like that,” Stubbs said. “It’s not fair to anybody, and he deserved what he got.”

Another death row inmate, Robert Turner, was convinced and sentenced for the abduction, rape and deadly stabbing of Bridget Drobney, 16.

Bridget’s mother, Cathy Drobney, says she feels betrayed.

“When my daughter, Bridget, was in the field – and we know this – she was crying, ‘Daddy, help me! Daddy, help me!’ Nobody was there for her,” Drobney said. “So we’re going to fight it until the day we die.”

But in signing the bill to abolish the death penalty, Quinn said there have been too many mistakes, and too many people who have been accused and later cleared.

“It is impossible to create a perfect system; one that is free to make mistakes,” Quinn said.

Also no longer in line for execution is Brian Dugan, who pleaded guilty to the 1983 rape and murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico in Naperville.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780′s Bob Roberts reports


Dugan was already serving life sentences for two other killings when his guilty plea was accepted in 2009. He was sentenced to death by a jury later that year.

Jeanine’s father, Thomas Nicarico, says he is bitter and disgusted, but not surprised. He says he tried without success to contact Quinn and Gov. George Ryan – who imposed a moratorium on executions in Illinois in 2000 after revelations about wrongful convictions led to the exoneration of 13 death row inmates.

“We need to organize. We’re still not organized, and we haven’t campaigned as the anti-death penalty group,” Nicarico said. “They never stopped, and I give them credit for that.”

Nicarico now lives in South Carolina, and says he won’t return to lobby in Springfield to reinstate the death penalty.

“I’ve been fighting with this system for 28 years. I’ve got to keep fighting?” Nicarico said. “And besides, I just lost my biggest battle.”

Nicarico says there is absolutely no question that Dugan killed his daughter.

The earlier conviction and death sentence for two other men, Rolando Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez, led in part to Ryan’s decision to impose the death penalty moratorium after both were exonerated.

But now, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez believes the system had been working, and she says Quinn’s decision baffles her.

“I don’t know why he did it. I hope it wasn’t something that was the result of some kind of horse trading,” she said.

Back in Oak Lawn, police Division Chief Mike Murray showed us crime scene pictures from Harris’ case.

“It’s very frustrating. There was a lot of work put into this case,” Murray said.

Harris, Turner and other former death row inmates will now serve life in prison, but will have no hope for parole.

Illinois joins 15 other states that have abolished capital punishment.

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