Illinois Governor signs bill repealing death penalty and commutes 15 death sentences

March 9, 2011

Democratic Governor Pat Quinn has today signed into law a bill abolishing the death penalty in Illinois. The bill will take effect on July 1, making Illinois the 16th state of the USA to reject capital punishment.

Although the new law was not retroactive, Governor Quinn chose to commute the sentences of the 15 people on death row to life. The Governor has previously said he personally supports the death penalty when properly implemented and would make a decision on the bill based on his conscience.

In its history, the State of Illinois has executed 360 prisoners. However, in recent times the death penalty came under attack when innocent prisoners were being exonerated from death row more often than the guilty were being executed. 20 prisoners were exonerated before then-Governor Ryan commuted the sentences of 167 others in 2003. Since that time, the state has spent $122 million to put 15 people on death row, but has executed nobody.

Reprieve’s Director Clive Stafford Smith said: “This is very welcome news for a state that was once a big advocate of the death penalty. Executing people wastes an enormous amount of money and achieves nothing positive.”

Notes for Editors:

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 27 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve has represented, and continues to represent, a large number of prisoners who have been rendered and abused around the world, and is conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

Reprieve is a charitable company limited by guarantee; Registered Charity No. 1114900 Registered Company No. 5777831 (England) Registered Office 2-6 Cannon Street London EC4M 6YH; Chair: Lord Ken Macdonald QC; Patrons: Alan Bennett, Julie Christie, Martha Lane Fox, Gordon Roddick, Jon Snow, Marina Warner