* From an op-ed by Charles W. Hoffman, an assistant defender in the Office of the Illinois State Appellate Defender…
One year ago this Friday, Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation abolishing the death penalty in Illinois.
The rightness of that decision is more clear than ever. Violent crime rates have not climbed. The public is no less safe. And the pursuit of justice has been served, not undermined.
Although hundreds of convicted murderers had been sent to Death Row since Illinois reinstated capital punishment in 1977, only 12 men had been executed in the 34 years the death penalty law was on the books. Yet during that same period, 20 innocent men were convicted of murder and sentenced to death, only to be exonerated after spending decades in prison facing execution for crimes they didn’t commit.
The last execution in Illinois took place in 1999, one year before former Gov. George Ryan declared a moratorium on the death penalty, as the only way to avoid what he termed “the ultimate nightmare” of the state wrongfully executing an innocent person. That moratorium remained in effect until capital punishment finally, and officially, ended last year.
Death penalty proponents had long argued that capital punishment was necessary to deter murders. But no evidence ever supported such an argument. In fact, in the year since abolition, the Chicago Police Department reports that the murder rate in the city remains at a 40-year low.
* The Question: Do you think most of the furor over abolishing the death penalty has subsided? Or do you think the anger will reappear in this fall’s general election campaigns? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please. Thanks.