It is time to end Illinois' flawed and expensive death penalty system. For more than a decade, Illinois has had a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The moratorium was adopted after a serious of high-profile incidents, including an instance in which a man's execution was stayed a mere 48 hours before the sentence was to be carried out, and was later exonerated! To date, a total of 20 innocent people have been exonerated while on death row in Illinois.
The moratorium now is in danger of being repealed, without fixing the problems that spurred the moratorium in the first place.
The death penalty system does not work: the decision about who should receive capital punishment is at best arbitrary, large numbers of innocent people end up on death row, and the whole system is extremely costly.
"The worst of the worst" - Capital punishment is supposed to be reserved only for defendants who are accused of committing the most serious crimes and who are obviously guilty. However, the decision about who constitutes the "worst of the worst" is generally arbitrary and capricious. Whether or not a person is sentenced to die depends largely on the attitudes of the prosecutors, the skills of defense lawyers, and where the prosecution takes place. In a system where only the truly guilty are supposed to receive the death penalty, quality of counsel, rather than actual guilt, tends to be a far better predictor of who gets sentenced to death and ultimately executed.
Innocents on Death Row - Given that death penalty sentences are more likely to be handed out based upon a the quality of a defendant's lawyer, rather than actual guilt, it is no surprise that a number of people on death row have later been exonerated. Thus far, 139 people have been found innocent and release from death row in the 25 different states. 20 of those people were in Illinois alone. So long as it is possible that an innocent person may be sentenced to death, capital punishment should be ended.
The High Price of Capital Punishment - Not only does the death penalty cost innocent lives, it also costs a lot of money. The state of Illinois allocated $16,332,553 dollars for the Capital Litigation Trust Fund in the 2008 fiscal year. But this fund covers only part of the cost of capital cases and does not cover the cost of appeals, the cost of prosecuting a capital case, or the cost of housing a death row inmate. Capital punishment cases, from the trial period until the actual execution, cost states more money than life without parole.
The moratorium that for a decade has held this flawed system in check is coming under fire, and there is a current movement in the Illinois legislature to repeal it. That is why it is so important to let legislators know that the death penalty is unwanted and unwelcome.
On Thursday, March 11, the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is hosting a Lobby Day in Springfield to call for an end to the death penalty in Illinois. Join with other voters and taxpayers across the state and make your voice heard!