Illinois’s landmark death penalty reforms became law yesterday when legislators agreed on a compromise with Gov. Rod Blagojevich involving discipline for police who lie on the witness stand. The Chicago Tribune says the deal caps years of uproar over the state’s capital punishment system that resulted in 17 men being released from death row and prompted former Gov. George Ryan to declare a moratorium on executions.
Blagojevich has continued the freeze on executions. The series of revisions that went into effect immediately prompted the two GOP legislative leaders to call for an end to the moratorium. House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego said that executions should no longer be automatically stopped because that’s what the majority of Illinois residents want. “The death penalty is the law in this state,” Cross said. “And given the fact that we’ve instituted these reforms and many, many people have said these are good reforms, I think it’s time to lift the moratorium.”
The governor disagreed, saying, “You can’t just have a whole series of bills one day and then the very next day think that you’ve now solved a pervasive problem in a broken system related to executing innocent people.”
Ryan applauded the General Assembly for passing the reform package, although he now wants to abolish the death penalty.