Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, now an ex-convict, tells the Associated Press he'd like to re-engage with the cause he left behind when he went to prison in 2007: campaigning for the end of the death penalty. Newly free to speak after a year of federal supervision that followed more than five years in prison for corruption, Ryan appeared to have recovered some of his old voice and feistiness. At home in Kankakee, south of Chicago, the Republican, 80, held forth on capital punishment, the state of American politics and the criminal justice system.
Illinois abolished capital punishment in 2011, stemming from Ryan's decision to clear death row in 2003. While he was treated as a champion by death penalty opponents at the time, he acknowledged some public figures now may have trouble openly associating with him. “I'm an ex-convict,” he said. “People tend to frown on that.” Ryan, governor from 1999 to 2003, was indicted in 2003 and convicted in 2006 on multiple corruption counts, including racketeering and tax fraud. Rayn called the U.S. justice system “corrupt” and contended that the fervor with which he was prosecuted was due in part to his nationally prominent campaign to end the death penalty. “It's absurd,” said Jeff Cramer, a former U.S. attorney in Chicago, noting that four of Illinois' last seven governors have gone to prison. “It wasn't his political stand that made him a target. It is what he did.”