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Abolition bill will NOT clear death row

Thursday, Jan 13, 2011

* A little known fact

Even if Gov. Pat Quinn signs legislation that would repeal the death penalty, it would have no bearing on 15 inmates on death row. […]

“It will only affect future sentencing,” said Sharyn Elman, a Corrections spokeswoman, said Wednesday of the proposed ban.

With the 15 men on death row, Quinn has three options: leave the moratorium in place and the inmates on death row; lift the moratorium and “the inmates could eventually be put to death;” or commute their sentences to life or something other length, Elman said.

I checked with Sen. Kwame Raoul, who sponsored the bill. He said the measure only applies to future sentencing.

* So, this story was needlessly inflammatory

Brian Dugan earned the death sentence he faces for raping and murdering 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico in 1983, the Naperville girl’s father said Tuesday.

That’s why Thomas Nicarico thinks the move by Illinois legislators to repeal the death penalty — which would spare Dugan’s life if it’s signed into law — is “the wrong thing to do.”

“He’s earned capital punishment,” Nicarico said of the 54-year-old Dugan, who was sentenced to death in 2009. “He’s earned the most severe punishment the state can give — and now the state is taking it away.”

Dugan was sentenced to die by a DuPage County jury for Jeanine’s murder, though he also was convicted of two other brutal killings.

Everybody really needs to calm down, including the reporters. Take a breath, people. Look at what actually passed.

* Meanwhile, Sneed is back

Sneed’s bet: Gov. Quinn will move to abolish the death penalty.

† Sneed’s tip: If Quinn does, watch for Sen. Kirk Dillard , Republican leader of the Judiciary Committee, to push to reinstate the death penalty for the worst of the worst crimes: mass murder and the murder of children and law enforcement officers.

Keep in mind that Rolando Cruz was almost executed (three times) for the rape, abduction and murder of a child

Lawrence Marshall, a Stanford Law School professor who had represented several freed Illinois Death Row inmates, said the problem with trying to limit the death penalty to “heinous” crimes is that the emotion surrounding those crimes can lead to errors.

“It’s the very kind of passion that triggers the desire for the death penalty in a particular case that does have the potential to be blinding,” said Marshall, who co-founded the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University.

Even so, Cruz still supports the death penalty.

* It’s conceivable that a Republican Senator who voted for the death penalty repeal could consider that new bill

Downers Grove Mayor and Republican state Sen. Ron Sandack joined with a group of 32 senators voting to repeal the death penalty in Illinois on Tuesday.

The Senate’s vote, which did not split on party lines, came after the House also voted to approve the measure, and the death penalty repeal bill now goes to the desk of Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn for consideration.

“The experience in Illinois tips the balance, to my mind at least, in favor of abolishing the penalty,” Sandack said in a statement Tuesday. “Alarming failures were the cause of the current moratorium on the use of the death penalty. It has been in place for over 10 years now, yet we still do not have a system which instills confidence that the system is without flaw, and that innocent people will not be sentenced to die.”

While Sandack voted in favor of the repeal bill, he said he still thinks the death penalty is appropriate in some situations, though the punishment “as employed in recent years in Illinois, has failed us all.”

* Roundup…

* Quinn refuses to be pinned down on death penalty repeal - Governor says he’ll follow conscience - Daley opposes a ban

* Quinn won’t say if he’ll sign bill banning executions

* Quinn ambiguous about death penalty abolition

* IL justice system will change if death penalty is abolished

* Peoria Co. prosecutor: Death penalty won’t be used

- Posted by Rich Miller        


20 Comments
  1. - phocion - Thursday, Jan 13, 11 @ 11:53 am:

    Solid comment from Sandack, who happens to be a top flight attorney. More Republicans like him and Illinois Democrats might find themselves in serious trouble.


  2. - wordslinger - Thursday, Jan 13, 11 @ 12:06 pm:

    –Keep in mind that Rolando Cruz was almost executed (three times) for the rape, abduction and murder of a child…–

    …. that he did not commit.

    That child was, in fact, Jeanine Nicarico.


  3. - titan - Thursday, Jan 13, 11 @ 12:26 pm:

    If the powers that be wish to reinstate the death penalty, they oughtot do so with some additional structural safeguards so as to further minimize the chance for erroneus convictions.

    For example, they might want to consider:
    A. Prosecution of capital cases by the AG instead of the local SAO (insulates some of the political pressure), including some sort of non-local law enforcement review of local law enforcement’s handling of the case.
    B. Increased evidentiary protections must be met before the death penalty may be imposed (eyewitness testimony is insufficient on its own as to identfication, etc.).

    I’m sure there would be several other tweaks that could be added to address the handful typical modes of error we’ve seen in the mistaken major cirme false conviction scenarios.


  4. - That Truth - Thursday, Jan 13, 11 @ 12:33 pm:

    So according to one particular Seanator we get about 50% right. But wait… in the last eight years were 15 for 15 100%.


  5. - That Truth - Thursday, Jan 13, 11 @ 12:42 pm:

    So according to this particular Senator… at least 7 of the 15 are innocent?


  6. - winco - Thursday, Jan 13, 11 @ 1:35 pm:

    I know it is Sen. Rauol’s bill, but if it is signed, there is no way the current death row inmates would be put to death (barring future repeal)—The plain language of the bill says that, effective 7/1/11, “the death penalty is abolished and a sentence of death may not be imposed.” Even if you say “imposed” is different than “carried out,” if the death penalty is _abolished_, then it can’t be carried out either.


  7. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Jan 13, 11 @ 1:41 pm:

    ===if the death penalty is _abolished_, then it can’t be carried out either. ===

    Not true. The GA can’t change current sentences. It can change future sentences. That’s what the penalty is, a sentence. If they had barred executions, then that would be another story.


  8. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Jan 13, 11 @ 1:53 pm:

    Look, if Quinn intends to sign the bill, and I believe he does, he could also commute the current death sentences to natural life sentences and be done with it. That’s what I would do in his position because that’s intellectually honest and consistent with opposition to the death penalty.


  9. - That Truth - Thursday, Jan 13, 11 @ 2:26 pm:

    47th Ward… My point! You can’t say abolish because the system is screwed up and then be ok with executing the 15 that are on death row as a result of the system that you say is messed up. This just made it easier for some to vote for it. We the people.. sometimes can see thru the p[olitics.


  10. - Fed up - Thursday, Jan 13, 11 @ 3:03 pm:

    47th ward I agree with you, Quinn will sign the death penalty bill and will probably commute the sentances or even easier just leave to moratorium in place and not deal with it. I favor the death penalty in extreme cases but the list of qualifying crimes grew to large. It is to expensive to keep the death penalty or death row, and although I think it will be another example of Quinn beind dishonest during the campaign quinn should claim this as a cost saving move also.


  11. - wordslinger - Thursday, Jan 13, 11 @ 3:36 pm:

    –quinn should claim this as a cost saving move also.–

    I don’t see, morally, how that can be a factor at all.

    I’ll be interested in seeing what Dillard might come up with for reinstating the penalty in some instances. The evidence provisions have to be absolute, beyond the shadow of a doubt. If you can pull that off, I’m willing to consider it.

    I’m not against the death penalty in theory, just how it’s been practiced in Illinois. The recklessness, indifference and corruption have been astounding, shameful.

    I won’t hold any candles for mad dogs like Dugan being put down. He’s 100% guilty of the most despicable evil. The problem is, someone else almost took the needle for him, and he would have gotten away with it.


  12. - irv & ashland - Thursday, Jan 13, 11 @ 4:52 pm:

    It was odd to see Mr. Nicarico quoted without any mention of the fact that he had opposed efforts to reopen the case back when DIFFERENT men were on death row for the awful thing that happened to his daughter.

    He is really a poster-case for why you should NOT listen to relatives of a victim when it comes to sentencing. He is understandably blinded with rage, but it’s left him unable to see simple things, like the fact that he himself was urging the killing of an innocent man not so long ago.

    Poor reporting by the Sun-Times to have missed this.


  13. - Jim - Thursday, Jan 13, 11 @ 5:01 pm:

    Quinn will sign repeal. No one will ever be executed. Quinn might not grant mass commutation immediately, but it will happen.
    Nicarico’s father has a justifiable complaint. Quinn is a death penalty foe masquerading as a supporter.


  14. - Rule of Lenity - Thursday, Jan 13, 11 @ 5:55 pm:

    **If they had barred executions, then that would be another story**

    The legislature needn’t say it outright. Winco is more correct. The ‘imposition’ language is clearly a potential a bar on the executioner’s statute. The power to pull the switch. In any case, if Quinn doesn’t commute, it will be something for the Illinois Supremes to decide. Then they’ll consider whether the legislature has wrongfully trampled on the power of the Governor and the judiciary if they figure it can apply backwards.


  15. - amalia - Thursday, Jan 13, 11 @ 6:36 pm:

    Well, it does seem that this would leave the people on death row eligible to die. My guess is that Quinn would commute the sentences because every bit of media about the bill seemed to indicate that the penalty would end in Illinois. (what were the discussions about this during the debate? If either side knew the consequences, either side would be disingenuous, one side upset that justice would not be served, the other knowing that they were letting a number of folks sit in limbo.)

    The criminal justice system in Illinois is layered with prisoners in under various sets of laws, hence why there is parole, prison review, various sets of criminal sentencing provisions. It’s confusing.

    “shadow of a doubt” ….. are we to introduce that concept into law? Let prosecutors have the power to charge and let there be an early review by the State of Illinois which must carry out the sentence. Could this be done at the earliest stage of the case, as with the recent decision in DuPage County not to seek the death penalty?

    cause prosecutors decide on a regular basis NOT to seek death. doing the math, one can see that the rate of ask for death is much lower than the number of murder cases. While I trust Bob Berlin and Anita Alvarez to make the decision….and these decisions are usually made at very high or the highest levels in these offices…..consultation with the AG would not be bad. It might not help much….the experience level in local prosecutors offices is often far higher than in the AG’s office…..but it couldn’t hurt.


  16. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Jan 13, 11 @ 6:43 pm:

    ===Well, it does seem that this would leave the people on death row eligible to die===

    Again, executions weren’t banned, the death penalty sentence was banned. The GA cannot overturn prior sentences.


  17. - Rule of Lenity - Thursday, Jan 13, 11 @ 9:00 pm:

    **executions weren’t banned, the death penalty sentence was banned**

    Again, Rich, this begs the question. What exactly is the semantic difference between banning executions and banning the sentence of death? It turns on the reach of the phrase ‘be imposed’, and that’s far from clear.


  18. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Jan 13, 11 @ 9:01 pm:

    Rich, “can’t” or “didn’t”?


  19. - That Truth - Thursday, Jan 13, 11 @ 9:15 pm:

    Back to the point. Law.. ball.. they will never be executed and everyone knows it. It not applying gave moderates political cover!


  20. - Tony - Friday, Jan 14, 11 @ 8:36 am:

    There are some bad dudes awaiting trial that deserve death if convicted. Anyone remember Sheley and his murderous rampage that terrorized the midwest for a couple weeks? I have a feeling Quinn will not sign and let judge and juries decide appropriate sentences. With the advent of improved dna and scientific collection there are some bad guys that are unequivocally guilty and their fate should be decided by the judiciary.


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