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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 13, 2002

Governor Ryan Introduces Death Penalty Reform Legislation
Calls on General Assembly to hold hearings with key parties

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today introduced legislation to reform the administration of the death penalty based on the 85 recommendations suggested by his Commission on Capital Punishment including: barring the execution of the mentally retarded; mandating that natural life is given as a sentencing option to juries, reducing death penalty eligibility factors from 20 to 5; and barring the death penalty when a conviction is based solely on a jailhouse “snitch.”

“It is imperative that we move forward on all of the commission’s recommendations to fix our broken justice system,” said Governor Ryan. “It is also imperative that through hearings and meetings, all of the key parties -- the prosecutors, defense attorneys, victims, and the wrongfully convicted -- are allowed an opportunity to offer their perspectives on these issues of life and death.”

The Governor’s Commission on Capital Punishment finished its comprehensive review of the administration of the death penalty and outlined 85 specific recommendations in a report issued April 15. The Governor’s proposal includes those recommendations that require legislation.

The legislation, House Bill 3717, will be sponsored by Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) and Senate Democratic Leader Emil Jones (D-Chicago) in the Senate and House Republican Leader Lee A. Daniels (R-Elmhurst) and Rep. Arthur Turner (D-Chicago) in the House.

Not all of the recommendations require action by the General Assembly to be implemented. Some will be instituted by Gubernatorial directive, Supreme Court action, or continuing legal education and law enforcement training.

Reforms in the legislation include:

  • Ensuring legal representation for indigents during custodial interrogations.
  • Videotaping interrogations and confessions.
  • Amending the Eavesdropping Act to permit videotaping/recording of interrogations in homicide cases without consent of defendants.
  • Revoking certification of police officers for committing perjury. Creating an independent state forensic library separate from the Illinois State Police.
  • Allowing defendants to obtain a court order to search the DNA database.
  • Reducing eligibility factors from 20 to 5 and instructing juries on alternate sentences.
  • Mandatory state-wide review of prosecutors’ decision to seek death penalty.
  • Documenting and disclosing deals and benefits offered to the state’s witnesses.
  • Conducting a pretrial hearing to determine the reliability and admissibility of jailhouse informant testimony.
  • Adding jury consideration of defendant’s history of extreme emotional or physical abuse or reduced mental capacity to the mitigating sentencing factors.
  • Modifying statutory provisions to permit a defendant to make a statement on his own behalf at sentencing.
  • Modifying and simplifying death penalty statute language so that the jury understands it must determine whether death or the alternative of natural life is the appropriate sentence.
  • Modifying death penalty statute language to require concurrence of trial judge on whether to impose a death sentence. Judges who do not concur must impose natural life.
  • Prohibiting imposition of the death penalty on the mentally retarded.
  • Adopting a new statute prohibiting the death penalty where the conviction is based upon a single eyewitness, accomplice or jailhouse informant without corroboration.
  • Modifying for clarification the Post-Conviction Hearing Act including timelines of filings and ability to raise claims of actual innocence at any time.
  • Ensuring timely filing of clemency petitions so an adequate review can be made.
  • Reauthorizing the Capital Litigation Trust Fund.
  • Adequate compensation for private defense counsel to ensure private practitioners continue representation in capital cases.

Governor Ryan’s office also announced it is helping to sponsor the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs training seminars on the requirements of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The convention requires foreign nationals be notified of their rights when they are arrested or detained. The seminars will be held May 20 for the consular corps, judges, prosecutors and corrections officials.



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