United States: Illinois passes SB 3539, which, if signed into law, will officially abolish the death penalty

Press Release
January 11, 2011

United States: Illinois passes SB 3539, which, if signed into law, will officially abolish the death penalty

Amnesty International Press Release
For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Amnesty International Welcomes Passage of Death Penalty Abolition Bill,
Calling it a 'Sound Public Policy Decision'

Contact: AIUSA media relations office, 202-509-8194

(Washington, DC) – Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) today welcomed the passage of SB 3539, which, if signed into law, will officially abolish the death penalty in Illinois.  The organization, which had long advocated that Illinois take the death penalty off its books, called the vote a clear victory for human rights and urged Governor Pat Quinn to sign the bill immediately.

“The Illinois legislature has shown courage and leadership in taking this long-overdue step,” said Larry Cox, executive director of AIUSA.  “With twenty death row exonerations, Illinois had already proven that mistakes are made in a fatally flawed system that fingers the wrong people time and again.  Governor Quinn now has the opportunity to set a positive example for other states that are considering abolishing the death penalty.” 

AIUSA’s Illinois members were active in the effort to repeal the death penalty by calling, writing and visiting their legislators in their home districts and in Springfield.  The bill also mandates that money remaining in the Capital Litigation Trust Fund be used to bolster murder victims’ family services and law enforcement. 

“Illinois has ample reason to make this sound public policy decision,” said Debra Erenberg, director of AIUSA’s Midwest Regional Office in Chicago.  “Since 2003, no executions have been carried out, despite the expense of $100 million on capital prosecutions – far higher than the cost of life  sentences and life without parole.  Taxpayer dollars clearly can be put to better use. The people of Illinois will be better served when these enormous funds are channeled toward constructive measures that support the needs of murder victims' families and more effectively combat violent crime.”

More than ten years ago fundamental breakdowns in the Illinois capital punishment system, exposed by the 20 death row exonerations, led to the establishment of a moratorium on executions. During the past decade it has been acknowledged that those flaws could not be fixed.  With the governor’s signature, Illinois would become the 16th U.S. state without the death penalty, and the third state to abolish it legislatively in the last four years, along with New Jersey and New Mexico.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers who campaign for universal human rights from more than 150 countries. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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