Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign historic legislation today abolishing the death penalty in the state, the Chicago Tribune reports. If the governor signs the ban, he will end a capital punishment system beset by flaws and brought down by evidence that freed wrongfully convicted men who spent years on death row. The ban would come 11 years after Gov. George Ryan declared a moratorium on executions after 13 condemned inmates were cleared since Illinois reinstated capital punishment in 1977.
Ryan cited a Tribune series that examined each of the state’s nearly 300 capital cases and exposed how bias, error, and incompetence undermined many of them. Since then, Illinois approved reforms to the capital punishment system, including taping interrogations under a proposal from President Barack Obama when he served in the Illinois Senate. Only two days before leaving office in 2003, Ryan commuted the death sentences of 164 prisoners to life in prison. Quinn and his predecessor, Rod Blagojevich, kept the moratorium in place. There are 15 people on death row, but they are not directly affected by the legislation. Quinn could keep the moratorium on executions in place. He also could opt to commute their sentences to life in prison. Prosecutors urged Quinn to veto the ban and take a hard-line stance to keep the death penalty.