Capital Punishment Reforms in Illinois: Comparing the Views of Police, Prosecutors, and Public Defenders
Robert M. Lombardo, David E. Olson

On 9 March 2011, Governor Patrick Quinn abolished capital punishment in Illinois stating that the state’s system of imposing the death penalty was inherently flawed. Quinn’s announcement followed an eleven-year effort to end the death penalty that began with a 2000 moratorium on executions imposed by then Governor George Ryan. This moratorium was the direct result of the appellate reversal of a series of death-row convictions. Prompted by these reversals, Ryan also created the Governor’s Commission on Capital Punishment to study the use of the death penalty in Illinois. As a result of this effort, comprehensive legislation was enacted to reform the Illinois death penalty system, and the Capital Punishment Reform Study Committee was formed to gauge the implementation and impact of the reforms. Working with the Committee, the authors’ surveyed 413 Illinois police departments, 102 Illinois State’s Attorneys’ Offices, and all 99 Public Defender’s Offices in an effort to determine the extent to which criminal justice agencies had implemented the requirements of the capital punishment reform legislation, and whether there were any significant barriers to the implementation of the legislative requirements. This paper reports the results of this inquiry, and argues that capital punishment ended in Illinois because of the complexity of the death penalty and the perceived inability to devise a system free of racial, geographic, and economic bias and not the failure of the criminal justice community to implement the reforms recommended by the Governor’s Commission on Capital Punishment.

Full Text: PDF     DOI: 10.15640/jlcj.v2n2a6