Lawmaker Files Legislation to Reinstate Death Penalty in Illinois

Lawmaker Files Legislation to Reinstate Death Penalty in Illinois

ILLINOIS (IRN) — Should Illinois reverse its prohibition on the death penalty? A lawmaker said mass shooters and technological improvements signal the time to again allow prosecutors to pursue capital punishment in state cases.

State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, introduced legislation that would bring back

The Capital Crimes Litigation Act of 2019 would undo the measure signed in 2011 by then Gov. Pat Quinn that repealed the death penalty.

“It’s time to get tough on crime in this state,” McSweeney said. “We have a major issue throughout the state. Obviously Chicago is in the national news and the elimination of the death penalty has been a failure.”

McSweeney also pointed to Texas prosecutors being able to pursue the death penalty for a mass shooter in Texas who killed 22 people and wounded several others.

Criminal justice advocates who helped successfully repeal Illinois’ death penalty said it doesn’t deter crime.

“While gun violence continues to plague our state, research has made clear that punishment, including the death penalty, does not deter criminal behavior,” said Jennifer Vollen, executive director of the John Howard Association. “Until and unless Illinois addresses the myriad underlying root causes and social failures that feed gun violence, and until guns are made more difficult to obtain and easier to track, we will not achieve the desired outcome of this legislation.”

McSweeney said technology has advanced since 2011, allowing prosecutors to pursue the death sentence with more confidence.

“I believe that the technology has not only improved, but will help ensure that we do not have wrongful convictions,” he said.

Vollen disagreed.

“Advances in technology do not eliminate the possibility of wrongful criminal convictions; human error, related to crime scene preservation, forensics, identification of suspects, witness recollection, and several other factors can still lead to a wrongful conviction that could end the life of an innocent person,” she said.

The measure has been filed in the past, often never getting a hearing in the Illinois General Assembly.

While opposition to the death penalty has historically originated with Democrats, a growing number of Republicans have begun to oppose capital punishment, according to Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.

“In the 2001-2002 legislative sessions, six Republicans in five states sponsored bills to end the death penalty,” the group’s 2017 report read. “By the 2015-2016 biennium, more than 11 times as many Republicans were sponsoring death penalty repeal bills – 69 Republicans in 11 states.”

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