Friday, November 21, 2003


The highlights....

Death penalty overhaul becomes law

After four years of tumult that fed a national debate on the death penalty, lawmakers Wednesday changed the face of capital punishment in Illinois.

The House voted 115-0 to enact historic changes to a death penalty system that has led to the wrongful conviction of 17 men. The Senate acted earlier this month, so the changes become law immediately.

They include giving the Supreme Court greater power to toss out unjust verdicts, letting defendants have more access to evidence and barring the death penalty in cases that depend on a single witness.

....The law also bars the execution of the mentally retarded, bringing the state into compliance with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year.

....It also makes it easier for condemned people to clear their names with newly discovered evidence and guarantees they will be able to see state's evidence that favors them-- including some previously off-limits documents.

...Between the time the death penalty was reinstated in 1977 in Illinois and January 2000, when Ryan imposed a moratorium on executions, 12 people were executed, while 13 were released because they had been wrongly condemned.