Illinois politics – the death penalty

by Neil Rickert

Congratulations to governor Quinn, for signing the legislation that ends the death penalty in Illinois.

Quinn says that he struggled with the issue.  I, too, have struggled with it.  In a case such as that of  John Gacy, it is hard to find any reason not to support capital punishment.  However, it was the Jeanine Nicarico case that changed my mind.  It’s a sad case of sexual assault and murder of a child.  Rolando Cruz was convicted of murder three times in this case.  Yet, on the basis of information available to the public (I was following the radio reports of the investigation), it was already clear by the time of the first Cruz trial that he was probably innocent.  This was a horrible miscarriage of justice.

Supporters of the death penalty are arguing that, with the use of DNA evidence, there is less risk of a recurrence of such a case.  But the problem in the wrongful conviction of Cruz was not one of evidence.  The problem then, was that we had a broken justice system.  It was a system where it seemed that the main goal was to get a conviction, and truth was of secondary importance.

As best I can tell, our justice system is still based on the wrong motivations.  Perhaps that’s due to a failure of human psychology.  With a broken justice system, there will be wrongful convictions.  We cannot afford to have capital punishment is a system that can so easily result in convictions of innocent people.

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