Illinois court upholds clearing death row

January 24, 2004|By P.J. Huffstutter | P.J. Huffstutter,LOS ANGELES TIMES

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled yesterday that former Gov. George Ryan had the right to commute the sentences of all the states death row inmates before he left office last year.

The decision is the latest chapter in the debate over death penalty laws, which exploded in 2000 when Ryan instituted a moratorium on executions. He acted after it became evident that 13 death row inmates had been wrongly convicted.

In January 2003, Ryan moved 167 prisoners off Illinois death row, commuting their sentences to life in prison. The former governor was later nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Critics claimed at the time that Ryan's broad use of his clemency powers was an effort to skirt the will of voters and slowed whatever momentum had been in place to reform the system.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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