| Whither reforms'
As I came closer to my decision, I knew that I was going to have to face the question of whether I believed so completely in the choice I wanted to make that I could face the prospect of even commuting the death sentence of Daniel Edwards — the man who had killed a close family friend of mine. I discussed it with my wife, Lura Lynn...She was angry and disappointed at my decision like many of the families of other victims will be.
I was struck by the anger of the families of murder victims. They talked about closure. They pleaded with me to allow the state to kill an inmate in its name to provide the families with closure. But is that the purpose of capital punishment' Is it to soothe the families' And is that truly what the families experience'
I cannot imagine losing a family member to murder. Nor can I imagine spending every waking day for 20 years with a single-minded focus to execute the killer. The system of death in Illinois is so unsure that it is not unusual for cases to take 20 years before they are resolved. And thank god. If it had moved any faster, then Anthony Porter, the Ford Heights Four, Ronald Jones, Madison Hobley and the other innocent men we’ve exonerated might be dead and buried.
But it is cruel and unusual punishment for family members to go through this pain, this legal limbo for 20 years. Perhaps it would be less cruel if we sentenced the killers to life, and used our resources to better serve victims.
My heart ached when I heard one grandmother who lost children in an arson fire. She said she could not afford proper grave markers for her grandchildren who died. Why can’t the state help families provide a proper burial'
Another crime victim came to our family meetings. He believes an inmate sent to death row for another crime also shot and paralyzed him. The inmate...gets free healthcare while the victim is struggling to pay his substantial medical bills and, as a result, he has forgone getting proper medical care to alleviate the physical pain he endures.
What kind of victims’ services are we providing' Are all our resources geared toward providing this notion of closure by execution instead of tending to the physical and social service needs of victims’ families' And what kind of values are we instilling in these families and in the young people' As Gandhi said, an eye for an eye only leaves the whole world blind...
I have had to consider not only the horrible nature of the crimes that put men on death row in the first place, the terrible suffering of the surviving family members of the victims, the despair of the family members of the inmates, but I have also had to watch in frustration as members of the Illinois General Assembly failed to pass even one substantive death penalty reform. Not ONE...How much more evidence is needed before the Assembly will take its responsibility in this area seriously'
The fact is that this failure... is merely a symptom of the larger problem. Many people express the desire to have capital punishment. Few, however, seem prepared to address the tough questions that arise when the system fails. It is easier and more comfortable for politicians to be tough on crime and support the death penalty. It wins votes. But when it comes to admitting that we have a problem, most run for cover. Prosecutors across our state continue to deny that our death penalty system is broken — or they say if there is a problem, it is really a small one and we can fix it somehow. It is difficult to see how the system can be fixed when not a single one of the reforms proposed by my Capital Punishment Commission has been adopted. Even the reforms the prosecutors agree with haven’t been adopted.