The Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (ICADP) held a very successful rally in Springfield on Thursday, March 11th, urging lawmakers to support the bills proposed in the Illinois General Assembly that would put an end to capital punishment. Members of ICADP, ACLU of Illinois' Allie Carter, Bob Gilligan of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, a number of legislators, and exonerated Death Row inmates and the families of murder victims alike spoke out against the death penalty.
The message of the day was that the death penalty needs to be abolished. In the words of our own Allie Carter, "The reasons for ending the death penalty are simple - the system is too arbitrary, it still bears too high a risk of error, and it costs too much."
STLtoday writes that "Since 1977, 20 Illinois Death Row inmates have been found innocent after having been sentenced to death." That is the second highest total in the nation, and is what prompted Gov. George Ryan to put a moratorium on the death penalty in 2000. Chicago resident Nathson Fields was wrongfully convicted of a crime and sat on Death Row for over 11 years. Anthony Porter spent 15 years on Death Row before he was exonerated a mere two days before he was scheduled to be executed. These men weren't released on a minor technicality; they were released because they were innocent. As long as individuals are in danger of being executed for crimes they didn't commit, this system should not be used.
Capital punishment in Illinois, as well as being a flawed system, is also an extremely expensive one. The capital punishment cases, from the trial period until the actual execution, cost the state more money than life without parole. The death penalty system costs Illinois millions of dollars; that is money that could be better spent as the state faces a $13 billion deficit. Colleen Cunningham of Equal Justice U.S.A. stated, "All the money we invest in the death penalty could go to other places. Do you want to spend millions on killing one individual or invest in education?"
The Senate Bill to abolish the death penalty, SB3569 sponsored and introduced by William Delgado (D-Chicago), failed to get out of committee before the deadline and has been re-referred to assignments. But after Thursday's rally, Sen. Kimberly A. Lightford and Sen. Heather Steans were both added as co-sponsors. The House version of the bill, HB5687 sponsored and introduced by Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D-Broadview), is still in committee, and gained nine co-sponsors on Thursday: Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, Rep. Paul D. Froehlich, Rep. LaShawn K. Ford, Rep. Cynthia Soto, Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, Rep. Eddie Washington, Rep. Julie Hamos, Rep. Robert Rita, and Rep. Harry Osterman.
Find your State Representative and tell them to end the death penalty in Illinois!