St. Louis Public Radio News
12:41 pm
Mon January 13, 2003

Fallout Over Ryan's Blanket Clemency

Chicago, IL – George Ryan spent his last morning as Illinois Governor doing network TV interviews, explaining why he commuted all 167 death sentences in Illinois to life in prison this weekend.

He told CBS's "The Early Show" that relatives of murder victims have a right to be angry with him, but that he couldn't sit and watch a broken system work.

Mexican President Vincente Fox and the Reverend Jesse Jackson are among the latest to voice support for George Ryan's decision to clear the state's death row.

Death penalty foes are now gearing up to use the Illinois clemency to take on the rest of the country.

They hope Governor George Ryan's decision to commute the sentences of 167 condemned prisoners will force other states to examine their own justice systems.

But some death penalty supporters believe Ryan's decision to let brutal murderers escape the ultimate punishment may actually hurt reform efforts.

Republican State Senator Peter Roskam says the public backlash against blanket clemency will undo any progress Ryan hoped to make in changing the system.

Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine says Governor George Ryan tossed aside the work of judges and juries by
commuting the sentences of all Illinois death row inmates yesterday.

Devine is urging Governor-elect Rod Blagojevich and the new Legislature to make the issue of the death penalty a high priority.

Blagojevich takes office at noon.