Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn must decide the fate of the death penalty in a state whose troubling record of condemning innocent men to death row put it at the center of the national debate over capital punishment, reports the Chicago Tribune. The Democratic-led Senate yesterday approved legislation to end the death penalty by a vote of 35-22, with two senators voting present. The House approved the measure a week earlier.
During the fall campaign, the Democratic governor said he supports “capital punishment when applied carefully and fairly.” Quinn backed the moratorium on executions 10 years ago by Republican Gov. George Ryan, who in 2003 cleared the state's death row after a string of men who had sat there were found innocent. Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez argued against the measure at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting early yesterday. Alvarez said she was “extremely disappointed” and that the Senate made its decision “without a full, open and public debate.” Alvarez called the death penalty “a deterrent to violent crime in the most heinous of cases” that should be available, particularly “when we have witnessed outrageous crimes such as the senseless murder of five Chicago police officers this past year.”