As the clock ticked toward Illinois Gov. George Ryan’s last days in office, he made a series of moves that could bring close examination to capital punishment in the United States.
Saturday, Ryan reduced the sentences of all 167 death row prisoners. Most received life without parole, but four were actually granted freedom.
The governor was thrust into the media spotlight in 2000 when he put a moratorium on all death sentences in his state. His actions were in response to 13 death row convictions that were overturned after the men were either found innocent or flaws were found in the trials.
According to Newsweek magazine, “some 10 states have recently ordered studies to examine the fairness of the death penalty.” No doubt Ryan’s decision will cause others to join that number. Currently, there are 3,700 inmates on death row [specify- is that 3700 in the whole country?]and if this ruling is challenged thoroughly, many of those could obtain lesser terms.
This decision is a blessing for those who still maintain their innocence. However, those who are guilty have escaped the punishment they deserve.
Ryan’s effort to correct Illinois’ capital punishment system is completely flawed. He commuted the sentences of every death row inmate without looking into each case individually. The governor should have formed a committee to review each case and change only the wrongful convictions.
Ryan’s decision to correct the capital punishment system in his state had good plans, but was completely misguided. The revenge that families of victims sought will never be obtained. The state’s judicial system is now in jeopardy because every move will be under close scrutiny.
-Dominique Drake for The Famuan.