Moratorium on Executions

Illinois Governor Ryan's Press Release FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 31, 2000 GOVERNOR RYAN DECLARES MORATORIUM ON EXECUTIONS, WILL APPOINT COMMISSION TO REVIEW CAPITAL PUNISHMENT SYSTEM CHICAGO -- Governor George H. Ryan today declared a moratorium on executions of any more Illinois Death Row inmates until a Commission he will appoint to conduct a review of the administration of the death penalty in Illinois can make recommendations to him. "I now favor a moratorium, because I have grave concerns about our state's shameful record of convicting innocent people and putting them on death row," Governor Ryan said. "And, I believe, many Illinois residents now feel that same deep reservation. I cannot support a system, which, in its administration, has proven to be so fraught with error and has come so close to the ultimate nightmare, the state's taking of innocent life. Thirteen people have been found to have been wrongfully convicted." Governor Ryan noted that while he still believes the death penalty is a proper societal response for crimes that shock sensibility, he believes Illinois residents are troubled by the persistent problems in the administration of capital punishment in Illinois. Since the death penalty was reinstated in Illinois in 1977, 12 Death Row inmates have been executed while 13 have been exonerated. "How do you prevent another Anthony Porter -- another innocent man or woman from paying the ultimate penalty for a crime he or she did not commit?" Governor Ryan said referring to the former inmate whose execution was stayed by the Illinois Supreme Court after new evidence emerged clearing him of the capital offense. "Today, I cannot answer that question." Governor Ryan said he will not approve any more executions until this review of the administration of the death penalty is completed. "Until I can be sure that everyone sentenced to death in Illinois is truly guilty, until I can be sure with moral certainty that no innocent man or woman is facing a lethal injection, no one will meet that fate," Governor Ryan said. "I am a strong proponent of tough criminal penalties, of supporting laws and programs to help police and prosecutors keep dangerous criminals off the streets. We must ensure the public safety of our citizens but, in doing so, we must ensure that the ends of justice are served." While noting that the General Assembly, the Illinois Attorney General and the Illinois Supreme Court are all studying the death penalty issue and issuing reports and recommendations, Governor Ryan said more review and debate is critical. "As Governor, I am ultimately responsible, and although I respect all that these leaders have done and I will consider all that they say, I believe that a public dialogue must begin on the question of the fairness of the application of the death penalty in Illinois," Governor Ryan said. Why do you favor the death penalty for persons convicted of murder? (February 19-21, 2001)

Total Mention (%)
An eye for an eye/They took a life/Fits the crime 48
Save taxpayers money/Cost associated with prison 20
Deterrent for potential crimes/Set an example 10
They deserve it 6
Support/believe in death penalty 6
Depends on the type of crime they commit 6
They will repeat their crime/Keep them from repeating it 6
Biblical reasons 3
Relieves prison overcrowding 2
If there's no doubt the person committed the crime 2
Life sentences don't always mean life in prison 2
Don't believe they can be rehabilitated 2
Serve justice 1
Fair punishment 1
Would help/benefit families of victims 1
Other 3
No opinion 1
Source: The Gallup Organization (March 2, 2001)

Capital Punishment in the United States

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Debbie Morris

is author of Forgiving the Dead Man Walking.

is a lecturer, community activist, and author of Dead Man Walking.

is author, teacher of Jewish Law at the University of Judaism, and rabbi of Congregation B'nai Israel.