Sunday, April 28, 2002

Pro Diner thoughts about Illinois

The report released by Governor Ryan's commission includes some worthwhile reforms, several very bad ideas, and quite a bit of misinformation about the fairness of trials in that state.

Studies finding ''serious flaws'' in death penalty cases have counted every case where a conviction or sentence was overturned, correctly or incorrectly, by another court. The commission's own report agrees the errors cited in the vast majority of cases had nothing to do with the innocence or guilt of the defendants.

The commission's suggestion that murders committed in conjunction with rape, hijacking, drive-by shooting or by contract should not be eligible for the death sentence is extraordinary. It is hard to imagine that anyone who supports the death penalty for any crime would not believe these kinds of murders should be included.

Independent studies released in the past two years by economists at Emory University and the University of Houston have found that enforcing the death penalty is a deterrent to murder. The Emory Study concludes that for each murderer executed, 18 murders are deterred. The Houston study demonstrated that a one-year moratorium on executions in Texas in 1996 resulted in more than 200 additional murders in that state.