SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced his support today for a compromise that has been worked out by police organizations and legislative sponsors of a comprehensive death penalty reform package. In July, the Governor amendatorily vetoed the package, expressing concern over a provision that allowed for decertification of police officers accused of perjury without providing reasonable due process.
“We all agree that Illinois’ death penalty system – that sent 13 innocent men to death row – is broken and in desperate need of reform. The legislature passed a good bill with one provision that needed work,” Blagojevich said. “The strength of democracy is that people can disagree and come together to reach a compromise. We found a way to address police perjury while respecting the rights of the police. And because we found a way to address our concerns and the concerns of Senator Jones and Senator Cullerton, we can now move forward on death penalty reform without undermining the rights of the police or the accused.”
The provision vetoed by Blagojevich would have required the state’s Law Enforcement Training & Standards Board (LETSB) to investigate every accusation made by every homicide defendant. During that time, the officer in question could be suspended without pay while the investigation proceeds. If a majority of the Board chose to authorize a hearing, the case would be brought before an administrative law judge, who would make a recommendation to the LETSB on whether or not to decertify the officer.
The compromise language addresses Blagojevich’s primary concerns. Under the new provision:
· Complaints may only be made by defendants or other police officers and must pertain to the offense of murder, whereas the original language allowed anyone to make a complaint about perjury that occurred anytime during a homicide proceeding.
· Rather than launching investigations into every complaint filed, the LETSB will review and make an initial determination on the legitimacy of the complaint. If warranted, the LETSB will conduct an investigation into the allegations.
· Accused officers will not be placed on unpaid leave until a final decision has been reached.
· While the LETSB retains authority to review and investigate complaints, the Illinois Labor Relations State Panel – an independent body that exists to enforce labor laws – will make final decisions regarding decertification of police officers.
· In cases where the defendant has been convicted, the judicial process takes precedent and perjury complaints cannot be heard until the court has granted a new trial or a post-conviction hearing based on perjury.
“Thanks to the Fraternal Order of Police, to the Chiefs, the Sheriffs, the Illinois State Police, the Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, Larry Sims, Senator Jones, Senator Cullerton, Senator Jimmy DeLeo, Representative Tom Cross, Scott Turrow and many others, will finally give Illinois the strong death penalty reform we need,” Blagojevich said.