Illinois House Votes to Repeal Death Penalty

By a vote of 60-54 on January 6, the Illinois House approved SB3539, a bill to repeal the death penalty and use the money saved to assist victims’ families and improve law enforcement. The action came eleven years after a moratorium on executions was put in place by then Governor George Ryan. The repeal bill will now move to the Senate for a vote as early as next week. In January 2000, Ryan ordered the moratorium following revelations that more than a dozen innocent people had been sentenced to death in the state. In 2003, Ryan commuted the death sentences of 167 inmates to life before leaving office. Illinois State Representative Elaine Nekritz, who voted for the repeal, commented, “I believe the history of the death penalty in Illinois demonstrates that we are not in a position to get it right 100 percent of the time.” If the bill is approved in the senate, it will go to Governor Pat Quinn for his possible signature.

An earlier vote on the repeal bill that same day failed to secure sufficient support by one vote. The bill was pulled by its sponsor, and then voted on a second time, securing the necessary 60 votes. In 2009, New Mexico was the last state to abolish the death penalty. There have been no executions in Illinois since 1999.

(“Illinois House Passes Death Penalty Ban, Senate Next,” Reuters, January 6, 2011; DPIC). See Recent Legislative Activity.