Amnesty International has urged Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois to bring an end to executions in his state by signing a bill to abolish the death penalty newly passed by the state legislature.
The bill was approved yesterday in the state Senate by 32 votes to 25 and would make Illinois the 16th abolitionist state in the USA. The Senate’s vote follows passage of the bill through the state House of Representatives last week.
"This historic vote is the latest sign that the USA is gradually moving away from this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment," said Rob Freer of Amnesty International.
"It is encouraging that legislators have recognized that the death penalty comes with high costs and risks for no measurable benefit.
"Governor Quinn should now sign this bill into law as soon as possible and set an example to other states that still retain the death penalty. This is a punishment that should have no place in a modern criminal justice system."
Illinois has executed 12 people since judicial killing resumed in the USA in 1977. During the same period, 20 people have been released from the state’s death row, the second highest number of such exonerations among the USA’s death penalty states.
Illinois has not carried out an execution since 1999, and in 2000 then-Governor George Ryan declared a moratorium on executions after concluding that the capital justice system was fundamentally flawed.
In 2003, he pardoned four death row inmates whom he concluded were innocent, and commuted the death sentences of 167 others.
Under the bill newly passed by the legislature, funds allocated for capital punishment cases would be transferred to services for families of murder victims and for training of law enforcement personnel.
If Governor Quinn signs the bill, Illinois would become the third state to enact legislation to abolish the death penalty in the last four years, following New Jersey in 2007 and New Mexico in 2009.
The 13 other abolitionist states in the USA are: Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The District of Columbia is also abolitionist. The remaining 35 states have the death penalty, as does the federal government and the US military.
Amnesty International is calling on the US government and authorities in the 34 states other than Illinois that still have the death penalty to work against the punishment with a view to its abolition.
Pending abolition, the relevant authorities are urged to prevent any further executions, in line with the United Nations General Assembly’s resolutions passed in 2007, 2008 and 2010 calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions.
There have already been two executions in the USA this year, bringing to 1,236 the number of executions carried out since 1977.