Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan contends that 32 of 164 death row commutations issued by former Gov. George Ryan were illegal. Her office asked the Illinois Supreme Court yesterday to restore their death sentences.
The Chicago Tribune reports that the case tests the breadth of a state constitution provision giving the chief executive the power to grant reprieves, commutations and pardons “after conviction for all offenses on such terms as he thinks proper.”
Madigan argues that some inmates were not eligible for clemency because they had not sought it, while others were not facing death sentences when Ryan acted on their behalf. the latter group’s death sentences had been vacated, and lower courts were considering whether to impose lesser sentences or reimpose capital sentences. Madigan says the mass commutation failed to impose a specific reduced sentence for each inmate, an action she contends violates past requirements of the Supreme Court that a commutation set a clear-cut reduced sentence.
Attorneys representing Ryan’s successor, Rod Blagojevich argue that a governor’s use of executive clemency can’t be overturned by the judicial branch because the state constitution says he can grant clemency after conviction for any reason he likes.