Ten years after the state of Illinois imposed a moratorium on executions, a group of death-penalty opponents is pushing for a permanent ban on capital punishment during the state legislature's lame duck session this week.
The report was released to "deafening news media silence," in spite of significant new information about the huge costs, and minimal gains, of pursuing the death penalty, James Warren writes in a column for the Chicago News Cooperative (republished in The New York Times).
"Today's reality is as mixed and melancholy as the legacy of Mr. [then-Gov. George] Ryan, the Republican who had an honorable epiphany on capital punishment but was sent to prison on corruption charges prompted by a more ignoble streak," Warren writes.
"It doesn't look fixed to me," said Leigh B. Bienen, a senior lecturer at Northwestern University School of Law and member of the committee who wrote a forthcoming law review article on the topic, which details the "perverse incentives" counties receive to pursue the death penalty.
Author/lawyer Scott Turow, who is a former member of the committee, said he "used to think that cost arguments were not worthwhile, because you can't get to them without resolving the issue of whether the death penalty is actually deterrence."
"But assuming it's not a deterrent - which the data suggest - it's worth asking how much we're willing to pay just to appease a sense of public vengeance," Turow told Warren.
An editorial in the State Journal Register in Springfield, Ill., agreed that the costs of Illinois' death penalty system are outrageous, and should be a factor.
"But those concerns, we believe, are trivial when measured against the human cost of capital punishment," the editorial continues. "A system that once nearly took 13 innocent lives is beyond rehabilitation."
In an interview with FOX Chicago News, Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Executive Director Jeremy Schroeder explains why the time is right to permanently ban capital punishment in Illinois.