STATEMENT OF GOV. GEORGE H. RYAN
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 17, 1999
"The revelations of these last months regarding failures within our system of justice is more than troublesome to all of us. The foundation of government is its ability to protect its citizens, enforce its laws and ensure that in the enforcement of those laws, the principles of equality and justice are scrupulously followed.
"No system created by man can be without error. It is not within human ability to be perfect. Mistakes can be -- and are -- made. But what is possible within our ability is the power to redress wrongs and to compensate for unjust governmental behavior when it is proven that justice has not been served.
"Our society correctly places a great value on protecting the innocent. In our system of justice, we all suffer equally if one innocent man is found guilty; or if 10 guilty men go free. But, as a society, we also desire the guilty to punished and that strong measures be enacted to protect the public.
"The attempt to meet these laudable goals places a great strain on our system of justice. One way we judge our system is on the number of convictions prosecuted in court. However, there are times when the system is out of balance. At those times, sometimes the innocent are caught in a web that places too much of an emphasis on conviction.
"In the last decade, this strain on our system has resulted in well-documented injustices. Our recent history makes it clear that our system -- at times -- has not lived up to our fundamental expectations. For whatever reason, these failures have caused innocent people to be convicted of crimes they did not commit. Their lives have been wasted and in many cases the real perpetrators of the crimes have been allowed to walk free and have avoided justice.
"That is a tragedy -- and we must make every effort to make sure it does not happen again. I urge my constitutional partners -- the General Assembly and the Illinois Supreme Court -- as well as all who cherish justice, to address this matter and right these wrongs.
"As your governor, under our Constitution I am faced with a difficult dilemma. I am asked to balance the requirements and laws of our society with regard to those who have been found guilty, as well as for the victims of crime and their families, and for a society that has been aggrieved. I am to do all this within the context of the values set by our society and as expressed by the statutes of our state and country.
"I find no comfort in this position.
"In these last months there have been an increasing number of calls for a moratorium on the death penalty. The fact that 11 individuals sentenced to death only to have determined later that they are not guilty must give anyone serious pause.
"To me, however, the issue is not one of whether or not we should enact a moratorium. That is only a side strategy in the debate over the death penalty. The real issue for discussion is whether or not our society continues to approve of the death penalty as a legitimate means for society to ensure justice.
"As a legislator and as a candidate for governor, I supported the death penalty. As governor, I still support the death penalty.
I must admit that it is very difficult to hold in your hands the life of any person, even a person who, in the eyes of the many, has acted so horrendously as to have forfeited all right to any consideration of mercy.
"I have struggled with the pleas of our clergy and others who ask that I commute or stay the execution of Andrew Kokoraleis. I have struggled with the anguish that I know is part of each and every day for the family and friends of his victims; those who look for justice.
"I have struggled with this issue of the death penalty and still feel that some crimes are so horrendous and so heinous that society has a right to demand the ultimate penalty.
"I have studied the case file and discussed this matter with numerous individuals. To me, all the evidence at hand indicates that Andrew Kokoraleis is guilty of the gruesome murder of Lorraine Borowski. A jury has decided his fate according to the law of the land. His repeated attempts to appeal the verdict and his sentence have been considered and rejected many times by state and federal courts over the last 16 years.
"Accordingly, I will not stand in the way or alter the verdict or the sentence handed down in this case.
"I want to thank Attorney General Jim Ryan and his staff for their help in my review of this case.
"I ask the citizens of Illinois for your prayers that I have acted wisely and in the interests of our state and in the interests of justice."