SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (IRN) — Governor Pat Quinn has about a month before he needs to make a final decision concerning the abolition of the death penalty.
Two exonerated Death Row inmates say they’d like to talk to him before he makes up his mind.
“Don’t repeat the mistakes of the past,” said former death row inmate and Witness to Innocence representative Randy Steidl. “There’s only 15 on death row now, and we know they were all found guilty by a jury of their peers. That’s what they said about myself and 19 others. Let’s not go down that road and fill death row back up. And I believe in a commutation of those 15 – life without parole is a very harsh sentence – in order not to risk the possibility of executing an innocent person.”
Steidl was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death in Illinois in 1987. He was freed in 2004. With him was Delbert Tibbs, who was also wrongfully convicted in Florida and put on death row in 1974. He was freed in 1982.
“We are appealing to those Illinoisans who have seen what the criminal justice system – the inconsistencies and the errors that it has been fraught with – who’ve seen that, to call on the Governor to do what the Illinois Senate and what the Illinois House of Representatives have done, which is to say that we don’t need that in Illinois anymore,” said Tibbs.
Tibbs says it’s not the state’s duty to carry out revenge. “I interpret closure to mean revenge,” he said. “And I think it’s inappropriate for the state as a sovereignty to deal in revenge. Closure comes from something else, comes from one’s spiritual connection, and to know that the person who committed the crime didn’t walk away scott free.”
Repeal of the death penalty is the only reform that will actually work,” said Steidl. “And we believe that you can release an innocent man from prison, but you can’t release him from the grave.” Illinois has had a moratorium on the death penalty since 2000 since then-Governor George Ryan said Illinois was making too many mistakes. 20 men in Illinois were sentenced to death and later exonerated. Steidl was one of them.
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