A death penalty bill moving through the Illinois Legislature would toughen the age-old standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” that juries use to decide if convicted murderers should die, says the St. Louis Post-Disaptch. The bill proposes that juries must be convinced beyond “all doubt” of the defendant’s guilt. Some hope that the mesure could prompt Gov. Rod Blagojevich to lift Illinois’ freeze on executions, by easing concerns about mistakes in the state’s troubled capital punishment system. Prosecutors say it could confuse jurors. A House committee narrowly approved the proposal yesterday.
Joseph Hoffman, a law professor at Indiana University, said that while Illinois would be the first to enact such a law, six other states – California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee – allow defendants to argue there is doubt in a case to jurors considering capital punishment for convicted murderers.