Posted: 1/11/2003 7:13:10 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/11/2003 7:20:35 AM EDT by Ire]
This is just wonderful. I am so pissed right now. I really hope they lock this guy up for a long time.
CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- Outgoing Illinois Gov. George Ryan will issue a "blanket commutation" on Saturday to almost all of the 156 imates on the state's death row -- reducing their sentences to life with parole -- according to a source in the governor's office.
The governor's office has not confirmed the information, but sources said letters have already been sent to inform inmates' families that their lives will be spared. None of the prisoners, whose sentences are commuted, will be eligible for release.
Inmates who have been convicted but not yet sentenced, or who have been remanded for a new trial, will not be not included in the commutations.
On Friday, Ryan pardoned four other death row inmates that he believed were tortured into confessing to crimes they did not commit, sparking outrage from prosecutors and family members of victims.
Ryan, a Republican who did not run for re-election in November, said he decided to pardon the four men, rather than commute their sentences to life, because he is convinced they did not commit the crimes that sent them to death row. All four men claim they were tortured by police.
"I believe these men are innocent, or I wouldn't have pardoned them," he said. "There isn't any doubt in my mind these four men were wrongfully prosecuted and wrongfully sentenced to die."
"The system has failed for all four men, and it has failed for all of the people of this state," Ryan said in a speech Friday at DePaul University Law School.
But many prosecutors said they believe Ryan is the one who failed.
"I believe that he is wiping his muddy shoes on the face of victims, using them as the doormat as he leaves his office," said Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons on CNN's Newsnight. "It says much more about George Ryan than it does about the death penalty."
"By his actions today, the governor has breached faith with the memory of the dead victims, their families and the people he was elected to serve," said Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine, who called the pardons "unconscionable."
'This brings back memories, just like it happened'
Leroy Orange leaves the Cook County Jail on Friday.
Madison Hobley, Leroy Orange and Aaron Patterson were released after their gubernatorial pardon Friday. Another inmate, Stanley Howard, remained in prison because he was convicted of a separate crime.
Ollie Dodds, whose daughter died in the fire Hobley was convicted of setting and remains convinced he is responsible, said, "This brings back memories just like it happened."
Lyons accused Ryan of arrogantly substituting his own judgment for those of juries and courts that have imposed and upheld the death sentences, assuming that "none of us get it but him."
"Everybody has had not their day in court, they've had their years in court," Lyons said. "It's shameful that the victims of this state, in fact, have to not fear the courts, not the defense lawyers, not the defendants, but they have to fear their very own governor."
Hobley, 42, who was convicted of killing seven people in a 1987 arson fire, including his wife and son, said the pardon was a "dream come true."
"Thank God that this day has finally come," he said after being released from a state prison in Pontiac.
Orange, 52, who was condemned after being convicted of four murders in 1985, said he felt "alive" as he walked out of the Cook County Jail.
"I didn't believe it when I first found out about it," he said. "Thank you with all my heart and soul, and please do something for the remaining guys on death row."
Patterson, 38, said he's "going to do all right" after walking out of the Pontiac prison. He was sentenced to die for the 1986 murder of a Chicago couple.
"It was long overdue, and I thank Governor Ryan for taking the appropriate steps and having the courage to do the right thing," he said.
Journalism students focus attention on death row
Illinois Gov. George Ryan speaks at a Friday news conference.
All four are part of a group of 10 death row prisoners who claim they were tortured into giving confessions under the direction of then-Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge. He was fired after internal police investigators found systemic evidence of physical abuse of suspects.
Capital punishment in Illinois came under the microscope after a group of journalism students at Northwestern University -- where Ryan is expected to make his commutation announcements Saturday -- began looking into the case of Anthony Porter in the late 1990s.
The students, working with their professor and a private investigator, found evidence that cleared Porter after 17 years on death row. Ryan then vowed he would do whatever it took to "prevent another Anthony Porter."
Ultimately, 13 inmates who had been sentenced to death were exonerated, and Ryan declared a moratorium on executions in the state. A panel, appointed by Ryan to examine capital punishment in the state and review the cases of all inmates on death row, concluded last year that Illinois had applied capital punishment too often since it was re-established in 1977.
It remains to be seen whether Ryan will be remembered more for his stand against capital punishment or for a corruption scandal that shattered his career and crippled the state Republican Party he once led.
A criminal trial is expected to get under way next week on federal prosecutor's allegations that Ryan's former chief aide and his campaign committee illegally diverted state resources for campaign purposes. A number of Ryan's close advisers have been indicted, and federal prosecutors have alleged the governor knew of attempts to conceal potential wrongdoing from investigators.
Ryan has not been charged.
When the governor leaves office Monday, Democrat Rod Blagojevich will take the state's top post.
...reducing their sentences to life with parole...
WITH PAROLE?!?!?!? YOU HAVE GOT TO BE SHITTING ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
THIS IS TOO FUCKING MUCH!
What the hell does he hope to accomplish. He's on his way out and facing a shitstorm of legal trouble. What does this get him?
Ryan is doing all kinds of crap to keep the fact that all his friends are going to jail off the front page. I think he has flipped out from the pressure.
The present governor is letting all the killers and rapists out of jail and the next governor is intent on taking all the guns away from the citizens of Illinois. This should be really interesting.
It's all going to hell. We're going have many more criminals out on the street and no way to defend ourselves.
Illinois = a criminal's paradise
Illinois has never seen this level of corruption in state governmment (though that might be elipsed by the incoming Democrat Party governor-elect). What kind of an idiot commutes GUILTY people to "life in prison"? Just who the hell is this guy to make that decision?? So now we and the victim's families get to pay these murderers' food, clothing and cable television for the rest of their lives.
Well I think the plan is structuring society so that "the people" will use what is left of their freedom to demand that the govt. protect them from criminals...
Violent criminals have vitrual carte blanche to committ crimes and walk ....
People are not allowed to protect themselves and if they dare to ....THEY get arrested and thrown in jail...
Disarmed a helpless population will demand the govt make them safe..the govt. will gladly comply and this ushers in the police state...
Homie land security...and the people will demand it imo
How many people has Illinois killed, anyway? I don't think they crack the top ten in body counts, so what's the big deal. Take them out of their single cells and put them back in the general population for an ass-erific good time.
Look at California: Sure, they like to impose the death sentence, but they [i]rarely[/i] carry it out.
My only concern is that this sets a precedent (although a very poorly reasoned one) for other liberal/criminal governors to follow. We can still rely on our friends in Texas (and others) to pick up the slack.