SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CN) – The death penalty is dead in Illinois. Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation abolishing it and commuted the death sentences of all 15 people on Death Row.
Quinn said he would commute the sentences of any other death penalty cases that are decided between now and July 1, when the law takes effect.
Quinn called the decision the toughest he has made as governor, but said that even after 10 years of reform, the state’s death penalty system is not perfect.
“I have concluded it is impossible to create a perfect system, one that is free of all mistakes,” Quinn said.
Former Gov. George Ryan, a Republican and death penalty supporter, put a moratorium on executions in 2000 after it was found that 13 men had been wrongly sentenced to death in the state. None of the 13 had been executed.
Ryan later commuted the death sentences of all 167 Illinois Death Row inmates at the time, saying there was no way to guarantee that innocent people wouldn’t be executed.
The scheduled executions were complicated by wide-ranging reports of police abuse in Chicago, including torture.
Subsequent governors – Rod Blagojevich and Quinn – kept Ryan’s moratorium in place and declined to approve any new executions pending review and reform of the system.
Lawmakers who support the death penalty are already pushing legislation to reinstate it.