The Chicago Tribune reports:
SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn today signed into law a historic ban on the death penalty in Illinois and commuted the sentences of 15 death row inmates to life without parole.
The governor said he followed his conscience. He said he believed in signing the bill he also should “abolish the death penalty for everyone,” including those already on death row.
“Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history,” Quinn told reporters afterward. “I think it’s the right, just thing to abolish the death penalty.”
Quinn signed the legislation during a private ceremony in his Capitol office surrounded by longtime opponents of capital punishment in a state where flaws in the process led to the exoneration of numerous people sentenced to death.
“For me, this was a difficult decision, quite literally the choice between life and death,” Quinn wrote in his signing statement. “This was not a decision to be made lightly, or a decision that I came to without deep personal reflection.”
“Since our experience has shown that there is no way to design a perfect death penalty system, free from the numerous flaws that can lead to wrongful convictions or discriminatory treatment, I have concluded that the proper course of action is to abolish it,” Quinn wrote. “With our broken system, we cannot ensure justice is achieved in every case.”
“For the same reason, I have also decided to commute the sentences of those currently on death row to natural life imprisonment, without the possibility of parole or release,” the governor wrote.
A small group of lawmakers also was on hand, including lead sponsors Rep. Karen Yarbrough, D-Maywood, and Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago. Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, and House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago also attended. Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, who lobbied Quinn to sign the ban, was there.