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Will Quinn sign the death penalty abolition bill this week?

Tuesday, Mar 1, 2011

* Kurt Erickson believes that Gov. Pat Quinn will sign the death penalty abolition bill this week

Look for Quinn to sign off [this] week on legislation to abolish the death penalty.

Quinn telegraphed his support for the proposal during a chat with reporters Wednesday.

Supporters of the abolition effort began hearing inklings of a news event surrounding the signing last week. The likely location: Northwestern University, home of the Center on Wrongful Convictions.

* Meanwhile, former Gov. George Ryan talked about his decision to empty death row during a just released deposition. Some excerpts

* “The families of the victims were just brutal. They threw stuff at me when I stood on the podium and swore at me and, you know, called me all kinds of names when I hadn’t really made up my mind about what I was going to do and told them that,” Ryan said of family members related to victims of crimes.

* At one point Ryan admitted spending as little as 10 minutes on petitions but at another point he said he burned the midnight oil pondering decisions.

* ”How can governors say we’re going to kill these people and then ask a state employee to go down and pull the switch. Who are those people to make that determination?” Ryan says.

* Ryan said he made pardon decisions based on evidence and discussions with staff. “When there was evidence there, I weighed the evidence and came up with what I thought was the best response to that evidence. I never dealt in hypothetical cases, and I don’t want to do it here.” […]

# Ryan said what propelled him to clear out Death Row and offer a slew of pardons before he left office stemmed from the case of Andrew Porter, who was wrongfully imprisoned for 15 years. “I turned to my wife, and I said, how the hell does that happen?” Ryan said of watching the events on the TV news. “How does an innocent man sit on death row for 15 years and gets no relief except for the students of journalism, not law students, students of journalism at Northwestern University? Tell me how that happens. And that piqued my interest, Anthony Porter. And I followed that case right through to commutation of 167 guys. I thought it was 177. Whatever it was. And that’s what triggered me. I still can’t believe it.”


He appeared to blow up when the city attorney linked the timing of Ryan’s moratorium on the death penalty to when the governor was first questioned by authorities concerning the federal probe. […]

But Ryan couldn’t keep quiet. “You’re here to talk to me about the Walden pardon,” he said. “What the hell does my indictment got to do with it?”

A short time later, when the attorney asked again about the criminal investigation, Ryan threatened to leave.

“I’m about ready to walk out of here, and you can do what the hell ever you want to do,” he said. “Send me to jail if you want. I’m not going to put up with that. If that’s — if that’s what you’re here for, and I’m starting to believe that it is.”


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - MrJM - Tuesday, Mar 1, 11 @ 11:01 am:


    Humans are complex and complicated critters, ain’t they?

    – MrJM

  2. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Mar 1, 11 @ 11:15 am:

    George Ryan is a step above Blago, which is to say several steps below the threshhold of good and decent.

  3. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Mar 1, 11 @ 11:25 am:

    – “How does an innocent man sit on death row for 15 years and gets no relief except for the students of journalism, not law students, students of journalism at Northwestern University? Tell me how that happens.”–

    That’s a very good question. And since there’s no good answer — not from the state’s attorneys and others who want Illinois to once again carry out the death penalty — that’s one of the reasons that Quinn will sign the bill.

    The people of Illinois owe those Northwestern students an enormous amount of gratitude for keeping the state from executing innocent men.

  4. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Mar 1, 11 @ 11:40 am:

    My heart goes out to the victims of the crimes involved and it goes out to the victims of the errant prosecutions that landed innocent men on death row. Too much at risk when the death penalty is involved. It has happened too often. The death penalty has to go. The bill should be signed.

    Ryan’s move, IMO, was a cynical ploy to garner sympathy - possibly even the Nobel Peace Prize for which he was nominated. Perhaps one of the greatest “look a kitty” ploys ever in Illinois politics.

  5. - Six Degrees of Separation - Tuesday, Mar 1, 11 @ 11:55 am:


    The most cynical part, of course, were the Ryan administration’s death penalty “hearings”…where victim’s families were once again dragged through the details of their loved ones’ deaths for the sake of Ryan’s mass “commutation” considerations. A cattle-car production at best. How about the dad whose daughter was killed when thieves literally ripped her baby from her womb, for the purposes of kidnapping? My worse angels yawn while Ryan still sits in prison.

  6. - levois - Tuesday, Mar 1, 11 @ 12:25 pm:

    Our former Governor still has a temper I see. Why question him about Walden anyway?

  7. - formerpolitico - Tuesday, Mar 1, 11 @ 12:46 pm:

    This whole deposition was a waste. Of what relevance was Ryan’s mental processes in issuing a given pardon?

  8. - Quiet Sage - Tuesday, Mar 1, 11 @ 1:51 pm:

    You expect the legal profession and law schools to be in the forefront of fighting for justice?

  9. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Mar 1, 11 @ 2:10 pm:

    Six degrees, I remember hearing about those hearings with the Ryan admin saaying they were carefully reviewing all these cases and then did the blanket commutation. Those folks knew what what going on and weren’t buying any of it. Ryan’s comments about how rude those relatives were just illustrates how determined he was to use the issue to boost his chances of avoiding conviction/prison time, IMO. May he serve his entire prison term, unshortened by any amount despite the efforts of BJT. May he sink into obscurity and disappear into oblivion only to be mentioned briefly in Illinois history books.

  10. - Secret Square - Tuesday, Mar 1, 11 @ 3:07 pm:

    “The families of the victims were just brutal.”

    Well, considering what he put them through (the marathon Prisoner Review Board hearings) and how it ended up making no difference in the end, I can’t really blame them…

  11. - william - Tuesday, Mar 1, 11 @ 3:18 pm:

    Ryan was stupid for clearing death row..he never reviewed one file…Just trying to save himself.

    Keep the death penalty…

  12. - T.J. - Tuesday, Mar 1, 11 @ 4:46 pm:

    I’d love to believe Quinn ever considered not signing this, but he’s not a very good actor.

  13. - dumb ol' country boy - Tuesday, Mar 1, 11 @ 5:26 pm:

    We need the death penalty in cases like what just happened with the US Rep. Under the old way of doing things, a lot of inmates were released because they tested the DNA some several years later and it came back that they had the wrong guy. Now all DNA has to be tested to ensure the are prosecuting the right individual. We have evolved with the times, now is not the time to abolish the Death Penalty we are jusy now starting to get it right…Think about it

  14. - Ain't No Justice - Tuesday, Mar 1, 11 @ 6:04 pm:

    - william - Tuesday, Mar 1, 11 @ 3:18 pm: Ryan was stupid for clearing death row..he never reviewed one file…

    Respectfully William, your wrong. Those files very few people could read without getting sick and he did review them and so did his staff. I believe he did what he believed was just. I believe in the death penality but with evidence; DNA, etc. But hey, even OJ got off with DNA evidence. Can you imagine staying in prison for 10 or more years for a crime you did not commit!

  15. - Bigtwich - Tuesday, Mar 1, 11 @ 6:41 pm:

    ” . . .in the course of justice none of us
    Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
    And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
    The deeds of mercy.”

    The Merchant of Venice”, Act 4 scene 1

  16. - william - Tuesday, Mar 1, 11 @ 9:01 pm:

    Respectfully Ain’t No Justice - Tuesday, Mar 1, 11 @ 6:04 pm:
    if Ryan and his staff reviewed every file like you said….he would have never cleared death row… he would have taken it case by case and released very few if any…

  17. - Marty - Wednesday, Mar 2, 11 @ 5:40 am:

    It’s fine to offer a commutation or pardon based on new or re-interpreted evidence, or just mercy; that’s part of the Gov’s job.

    It’s also fine to propose and argue to change the law, such as eliminating the death penalty; that’s also part of the job.

    But to just empty death row of people who were put there through proper judicial proceedings, even if you think the process flawed and mistake-prone–not by reviewing the individual cases, but en masse–that is a usurpation of power and a violation of separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary.

    He should have been censured, if not impeached, for that.

  18. - Ain't No Justice - Wednesday, Mar 2, 11 @ 6:10 pm:

    Were you “there” William? Doubt it.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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