Death-Penalty Reforms Approved In Illinois

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The long-pending overhaul of death-penalty procedures in Illinois has been approved by the legislature and sent to Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The Chicago Tribune says the measure’s advocates predict that it “will transform the investigation and prosecution of every death-eligible crime in Illinois.”

The bill would refine the capital justice system at nearly every point from investigation to post-conviction legal wrangling, with a multitude of changes meant to prevent execution of the innocent. Blagojevich is likely to sign it.

The law would cap three years of scrutiny and reform of capital punishment in Illinois. Concerned because 13 men had been released from Illinois’ death row, former Gov. George Ryan instituted a moratorium early in his term on implementation of the death penalty and appointed a task force to figure out how to eliminate unwarranted convictions. The bill incorporates most of the group’s suggestions. It would change police procedures regarding disclosure of their investigative field notes, set up a system to get rid of police officers who lie and create pretrial hearings to help determine the credibility of jailhouse informants.

Blagojevich has continued the moratorium on executions. Lawmakers agreed to excise proposals that police and prosecutors found especially objectionable, including one to create a statewide panel to decide whether local state’s attorneys could seek the death penalty.


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