Will Illinois Be “Bellwether of the American Death Penalty”?


Illinois has became the 16th state to abolish the death penalty after more than a decade reexamining the state justice system, its record, and the cost of conducting executions, says the Christian Science Monitor. An Illinois moratorium on executions since 2000 put a national spotlight on problems in capital-punishment cases and began to shake public confidence in the infallibility of the justice system.

With Gov. Pat Quinn’s signing the law to end capital punishment, opponents of executions hope that states particularly in the Midwest will follow Illinois’s lead and muster the political will to end it. “Illinois is going to be the bellwether on the American death penalty. It was the focus since the very beginning of the debate,” says Rob Warden of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University's School of Law in Chicago. Illinois has executed 12 people since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty. Missouri put 67 convicted criminals to death during that same time – the most in the Midwest.

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