Breaking New: Illinois Votes to Abolish the Death Penalty

As the state of Texas gets ready to execute Cleve “Sarge” Foster tonight, the Illinois Senate voted to abolish the death penalty. The bill now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn, who must sign the legislation. More from Chicago Tribune:

By Todd Wilson and Ray Long at 11:05 a.m.; last updated at 3:16 p.m. with roll call links

SPRINGFIELD — A historic measure to abolish the death penalty in Illinois passed the state Senate today after nearly two hours of impassioned debate.
The ban on executions goes to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who must sign the legislation for it to become law. During last fall’s campaign, Quinn said he supports “capital punishment when applied carefully and fairly,” but also backs the 10-year-old moratorium on executions. (See Question 4 here.)
The Senate voted 32-25 to approve the ban, with two members voting present. The measure passed the House last week.
You can see how your state senator voted today by clicking here. You can see how your House member voted last week by clicking here.
Sponsoring Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, urged his colleagues to “join the civilized world” and end the death penalty in Illinois.

Raoul spoke of how authorities were certain when they prosecuted Jerry Hobbs and Kevin Fox for killing their own little girls. Both confessed under coercion and both were exonerated by DNA evidence. The senator spoke of is 10-year-old daughter and how he could not imagine what a wrongly accused father would go through.

Illinois “ought to be embarrassed” by its track record of wrongful convictions, Raoul said, “because if an execution were to take place, it takes place in the name of the people of Illinois.”
Sen. John Millner, R-Carol Stream, a former Elmhurst police chief with experience of interviewing more than 1,000 defendants, called for making more reforms to the system before eliminating the death penalty. He also called for more training of police officers, including how to avoid false confessions.

“I ask you all, please,” Millner said, to consider a crime victim’s families.

Sen. Willie Delgado, D-Chicago, a former parole agent, cited how he worked in the attorney general’s office when the wrongful convictions of Rolando Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez were examined.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the system is broken,” Delgado said. He maintained “death is too good for some folks” and said they should be allowed to sit in prison for natural life, where they can “rot and think about what they have done.”

In Texas People opposed to the death penalty will gather today, Jan 11, at the Texas Capitol at 5:30 PM on the sidewalk at Congress and 11th for a protest of the first Texas execution of 2011 on the day the Texas
Legislature convenes for its first day in session. Today at 6:00 PM  Cleve “Sarge” Foster is scheduled to be executed in Huntsville by the state of Texas for a murder that his already executed co-defendant said Foster did not commit.

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Hooman Hedayati

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