Chicago-Area Prosecutor Uses Death Penalty as Bargaining Chip


While most suburban prosecutors use the death penalty sparingly, even in heinous slayings, Kane County, Ill., State's Attorney John Barsanti intends to seek it whenever he can. Barsanti says that puts the onus on judges and juries to decide who lives or dies, reports the Arlington Heights Daily Herald. He also says the threat of lethal injection could prompt some to plead guilty to stay off death row. “Why go into a plea bargain without all the bullets in your gun?” Barsanti said. “In a negotiating situation, you can say, 'You roll the dice on this one and lose, you get death.'”

After 1 1/2 years in office, Barsanti has sought the death penalty in five of about 25 murder cases – more than his predecessor, Meg Gorecki, did in four years. And far more, percentage-wise, than many of his suburban counterparts. And he has done so in cases with scant physical evidence and mentally ill defendants. The strategy has put Barsanti in the crosshairs of death-penalty opponents, who believed Kane County pursued death too often even before he was elected. “We were surprised at how it shot up after he took over,” said Jane Bohman, executive director of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. She says the county's resources could be better spent on drug and gang offenses.


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