Yesterday, Illinois joined the civilized world, including 15 other states, by abolishing the death penalty. Their reason? One of sense:
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,Mr. Quinn [Illinois Governor Pat Quinn] said in a statement.
In 2000, at the same time that Texas Governor George W. Bush was crowing arrogantly that every one of the people executed in his state during his reign — well over 100 — was guilty and deserved to die, the governor of Illinois at that time, George Ryan, suspended the death penalty because DNA evidence proved that a disturbing number of the death-row inmates there were, in fact, innocent.
Before then, George Pataki won the election for governor in New York with the promise of reinstating the death penalty here. And our state’s top court subsequently declared the law unconstitutional. No one has been executed in New York since 1963. The Massachusetts law has also been declared unconstitutional by its state courts.
The thirteen other states that do not have death penalty statutes at all are Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
In contrast, Texas has killed 466 inmates since 1976. Virginia is a very distant second, at 108. In fact, Texas has executed more people than the next six states, combined (Virginia, Oklahoma (96), Florida (69), Missouri (68), Alabama (50), and Georgia (49)).
Illinois executed 12 prisoners between 1976 and Governor Ryan’s moratorium in 2000. Hooray for them for making it clear that they’ll kill no more.