Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Repeal Passes in Illinois

Congratulations to our members and colleagues in Illinois on yesterday's passage of a bill that repeals the state's death penalty! That legislation now goes to the Governor for his signature.

Victims' family members were crucial to this effort. MVFHR member Gail Rice writes this morning, "I know that murder victims' family members provided a crucial voice in the debate. Prosecutors working against us weren't able to say 'All victims want the death penalty' or 'We haven't heard from the victims' because a very well-written letter giving our major points, signed by 35 murder victims' family members in Illinois, was distributed repeatedly to legislators."

As well, MVFHR member Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins reports that victims' testimony was repeatedly cited during yesterday's floor debate in the Senate. We will post yesterday's testimony from member Cathy Crino and other victim statements as soon as we get them.

Here is the Death Penalty Information Center's news brief about the vote, which includes the important information about the link between death penalty repeal and support for victims' family members:

On January 11, the Illinois Senate, by a vote of 32-25, joined the House in voting to repeal the state’s death penalty and re-allocate funds in the Capital Litigation Trust Fund to a fund for murder victims’ services and law enforcement. If signed into law, Illinois would become the 16th state to stop capital punishment and would mark the fewest states with the death penalty since 1978. Since 1976, Illinois has carried out 12 executions. In the same period, 20 inmates have been exonerated from the state’s death row, the second highest number in the United States. The state has not had an execution since 1999, and since then, use of the death penalty has declined sharply. In the 1990s, the state averaged over 10 death sentences a year. In 2009 and 2010, the state imposed only one death sentence each year. The bill must be signed by Governor Pat Quinn in order to become law.

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