Ex death row inmates seek repeal
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Springfield, Illinois - Wrongfully convicted former death row inmates said on Monday there's only one way to ensure Illinois never executes an innocent person - repeal the death penalty.
Witness to Innocence, which is a group of men sent to death row but later exonerated, urged Govorner Pat Quinn to sign legislation abolishing the death penalty in Illinois.
“Don't repeat the mistakes of the past,” said Randy Steidl, who was wrongly convicted of murdering a newlywed couple. “There's only 15 on death row now, and we know they were all found guilty by a jury of their peers. That's what they said about myself and 19 others.”
Illinois has exonerated 20 death row inmates, according to the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Former Governor George Ryan halted executions in 2003, but the penalty remains on the books and juries continue to impose death sentences.
It is unclear what would happen to the 15 people on death row if the death penalty is repealed.
Lawmakers voted to end the death penalty a month ago. Quinn, who supports the death penalty but has continued the moratorium on executions, hasn't said whether he intends to sign the legislation, or even when he will decide.
Advocates on both sides of the question have been trying to sway Quinn.
Death penalty proponents say it acts as a deterrent to heinous crimes, can be used as leverage in interrogation and that it can provide closure for victims' families. The death penalty is legal in 37 states.
Delbert Tibbs, a Chicago native who was wrongfully convicted of rape and murder, was on death row in Florida during the 1970s. He said people who view the death penalty as a means of closure are misguided.
“I interpret closure to mean revenge,” Tibbs said at a news conference. “And I think it's inappropriate for the state, as a sovereignty, to deal in revenge.” - Sapa-AP