Death Penalty Ban Gets Mixed Reviews

By WEEK Producer

March 9, 2011 Updated Mar 9, 2011 at 11:42 PM CDT

The Governor's decision to sign legislation banning the death penalty is getting mixed reviews.

State's Attorney's -- like Kevin Lyons in Peoria and Bill Yoder of McLean County --say it takes away an amount of leverage for prosecutors to use in heinous murder cases.

"There really is a worst of the worst, the cream of the crud, the person who committs crimes and murder so shocking that it shocks the conscience of the community and changes the way people live. There is no leverage for those people anymore," Lyons.

"When the worst of the worst are being prosecuted, I think the death penalty is the appropiate sanction that state's attorneys should be imposing. I think the public also favors the death penalty, and their will is being thwarted by Springfield," Bill Yoder, McLean County States Attorney.

But the anti-death penalty forces point to the twenty men who were on death row who were released from prison after being exonerated --in many cases by DNA evidence.

Professor David Protess founded the Innocence Project at Northwestern University.

With his students he has helped win the freedom of five former death row inmates.

"I think its pretty clear now that the system was fundamentally flawed. it's broken, and it deserves to end. the governor did the courageous and right thing Wedmesdy," Professor David Protess.

Now, the battle over the death penalty may move back to the Illinois General Assembly.

Several Illinois Republican lawmakers plan to introduce legislation to reinstate the death penalty for the worst of the worst offenders.

Senator Kirk Dillard and other Republican members of the General Assembly said they want a state-wide non-binding referendum on the death penalty.

"The worst of the worst goes to the heart of the order of our society. there are pitfalls to passing things in these lame duck sessions, things like the Democrats rammed through including the abolition of the death penalty. I will have Democrat co-sponsors for my "worst of the worst" bill," St. Sen. Kirk Dillard (R) Naperville.

And Representative Jim Durkin - a former prosecutor --says the death penalty system in Illinois no longer broken, because of legal safeguards put in place some years ago by the Illinois Supreme Court.

To submit a comment on this article, your email address is required. We respect your privacy and your email will not be visible to others nor will it be added to any email lists.