NEW VOICES: Retired Federal Judge Urges Illinois Governor to Sign Repeal Bill

Retired Federal Judge H. Lee Sarokin recently wrote in the Huffington Post urging Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to sign a bill that would repeal the death penalty.  He wrote, "I am certain we could all list persons who committed outrageous and despicable crimes that we would want executed. Many of us want revenge, retribution and the ultimate punishment in those cases, but, nonetheless, I am opposed to the death penalty."  Judge Sarokin highlighted deterrence, costs, racial discrimination, the risk of wrongful executions and personal moral views as among the most significant reasons for his opposition.  He believes that, “deterrence plays no part whatsoever. Persons contemplating murder do not sit around the kitchen table and say I won't commit this murder if I face the death penalty, but I will do it if the penalty is life without parole. I do not believe persons contemplating or committing murder plan to get caught or weigh the consequences.”  Reall full article below.

NEW VOICES: Senator Durbin of Illinois Changes Stance on Death Penalty

U. S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois recently announced at a breakfast honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., that he has changed his life-long opinion on the death penalty and now favors its abolition. Sen. Durbin, who is the second-ranking member of the U.S. Senate as the assistant majority leader, said that his reflections over many years brought about an evolution in his thinking about capital punishment, particularly with respect to its unfairness and the risk of executing the innocent.  He noted, "There are many people who commit heinous crimes, and I’d be the first to stand up with emotion and say they should lose their lives. But when I look at the unfairness of it, the fact that the poor and people of color are most often the victims when it comes to the death penalty, and how many cases we've gotten wrong now that we have DNA evidence to back us up, I mean, it just tells me life imprisonment is penalty enough." In early January, the Illinois General Assembly presented Governor Pat Quinn with a bill to end the death penalty in Illinois.

Jurisdictions with no recent executions

Although the United States is considered a death penalty country, executions are rare or non-existent in most of the nation: the majority of states—31 out of 50—have either abolished the death penalty or have not carried out an execution in at least 10 years. An additional 6 states have not had an execution in at least 5 years, for a total of 37 states with no executions in that time. Three additional jurisdictions (the District of Columbia, the Federal Government, and the Military) have not had an execution in at least 10 years.

Legislative Activity - Illinois

  • Wrongful Convictions Prompt More Jurisdictions to Videotape Interrogations The wrongful conviction of Eddie Joe Lloyd, a mentally ill man who was exonerated in 2002 after serving 17 years in prison for a rape and murder he did not commit, has prompted Detroit to join a growing list of jurisdictions that now require videotaped interrogations of suspects. A decade ago, only Minnesota and Alaska required police to videotape interrogations, but today, at least 450 police departments across the country have implemented the practice in an effort to prevent coerced confessions.

Life After Death Row

Gordon Steidl Released After 17 Years


Gordon Steidl was freed from an Illinois prison May 28th, 2004, 17 years after he was wrongly convicted and sentenced to die for a 1986 dual murder.  Steidl was granted a new sentencing hearing in 1999, resulting in a sentence of life without parole.  Federal judge Michael McCuskey overturned Steidl’s conviction in 2003 and ordered a new trial. The state reinvestigated the case, testing DNA

Summary of the November 19, 2003 Veto Override by the Illinois Legislature

Prepared by Edwin Colfax, Executive Director of the Illinois Death Penalty Education Project

IL Death Penalty Reform Bill Becomes Law

A major piece of criminal justice and death penalty reform legislation was made law today as the Illinois House joined the Senate to unanimously override a partial veto by the governor, at the same time passing a separate bill which makes changes reflecting an agreement between the governor and legislative leaders on the vetoed provision.

Testimony of Richard C. Dieter, Esq. Executive Director, Death Penalty Information Center to the Illinois House of Representatives addressing innocence and