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Illinois Capital Punishment System

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Clemency, compassion?

By: Cal Condon

How exactly can I explain the Capital Punishment System here in Illinois? Well to be honest, I would have to go with, total chaos. For you who don’t know what Capital Punishment is, it is the system we use to place criminals who commit very serious crimes on Death Row. Out of the 50 states in our wonderful country, 38 of them have a Capital Punishment System, Illinois being one of them. Recently, while Governor George Ryan was in office, it was decided to halt all executions, making Illinois the first of the 38 states to do so.

Capital Punishment was brought back to Illinois in 1977. From ’77 to ’87 there were a total of 128 prisoners enrolled on death row. In 1990 alone there were 125 murderers waiting to face the ultimate punishment. Out of those people, a total of 12 people have been executed through lethal injection, but 13 prisoners were released from death row as innocent. 7 of the 12 executed were after 1976, 5 were in 1995 alone. Is it just me, or is this a bit confusing? The Government seemed to get a little death hungry during these years. It’s obvious that there are bound to be many other innocent people, sitting in jail cells suffering for a murder that they did not commit.

Governor Ryan stepped in office determined to find out what is wrong with this system in Illinois. He came in actually as a firm believer of the death penalty, but seeing that 13 people were found innocent, Governor Ryan became frustrated and decided to take action. After researching how the system works, and becoming aware of the flaws, the former Governor pardoned 4 more prisoners (Aaron Patterson, Madison Hobley, Stanley Howard and Leroy Orange) who confessed under police torture and convicted because of those confessions. “I believe these men are innocent or I wouldn’t have pardoned them, the system has failed for all four men and it has failed for all the people of this state.” Governor Ryan said at Depaul University. He also believes that there are at least 33 wrongly convicted, and since Capital Punishment was reinstated 93 have been released from custody because they were found innocent.

This system in Illinois is obviously full of error and no one can ever seem to be 100% sure of determining who’s guilty and who’s innocent, and if they should die or not. As Governor Ryan put it, “The Death Penalty is unconstitutional, the Constitution compels it.” To say the least, the Capital Punishment system in Illinois and all over the world is very unfair. In the U.S. the most executed are either, psychotic, alcoholic, drug addicted, or mentally unstable, and rarely people with money or prestige are convicted of capital punishment, and hardly ever executed. And in Illinois it is 5% more likely to get put on Death Row for first degree murder in rural areas than it is in Cook County. Does it seem fair that half of the nearly 300 capital cases had been reversed for a new trial or resentencing? Last year, there were about 1000 murders, and only 2% were sentenced to death.

As a free and independent country, we set an example for justice and fairness, but these statistics make us look like we are pulling names out of hats. Not very impressive on our parts! “To take a life when a life has been lost is revenge, not justice!” stated Reverend Desmond Tutu, speaking about the Death Penalty. Sometimes, we put our minds on getting back at people too fast which causes fault in accusing the person who committed the crime. In most cases the defense lawyers don’t even consult with their client. In Illinois there have been a few lawyers found to be convinced the person did the crime and didn’t bother talking to the person they are supposed

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