Yesterday was incredible. After two months of calls, emails, letters and visits, Governor Pat Quinn ended the death penalty in Illinois with a stroke of a pen.
He said: "I have concluded that our system of imposing the death penalty is inherently flawed."
Like Governor Bill Richardson, who signed repeal legislation in New Mexico in 2009, Governor Quinn supports the death penalty in theory. But he learned the system does not work.
"Since our experience has shown that there is no way to design a perfect death penalty system, free from the numerous flaws that can lead to wrongful convictions or discriminatory treatment, I have concluded that the proper course of action is to abolish it."
Thank Governor Quinn for taking the proper course of action and ending the Illinois death penalty. And thank the bill’s sponsors who got this whole thing started.
Rep. Karen Yarbrough, who has been committed to ending Illinois' broken death penalty system for years, said yesterday, "I think we're on the right side of history...I appreciate the governor taking the time it took to listen to the other voices out there.”
We expect it’s a space that other states will soon create as well. Illinois tried harder than most to create a fair, accurate death penalty system. They instituted eleven years of moratorium, two study commissions, and a slew of reforms.
But ultimately they learned that it was not workable.
And it’s a lesson people across the country have clearly learned as well. Governor Quinn received 12,000 letters and calls in favor of repeal and only 700 against.
Enthusiasm for the death penalty has collapsed to a mere trickle. Americans are ready to let it go.
Thank the bill’s sponsors and Governor Quinn for responding to the new picture of what Americans are looking for and ending the death penalty.
Yesterday Rep. Yarbrough acknowledged her predecessors in the fight for justice, saying “we're standing on the shoulders of other legislators who have inched this thing along."
But its clearly not just other lawmakers whose shoulders and spirit allowed this day to happen. It’s also you. Thank you.