Illinois Governor Commutes Death Sentences of 167 Inmates

January 13, 2003

In the sharpest blow to death penalty in 30 years, the governor of Illinois has granted clemency to 167 inmates on death row.

Gov. George Ryan said, "How many more cases of wrongful convictions have to occur before we can all agree that this system in Illinois is broken?"

Ryan, who leaves office today, stopped short of pardoning the prisoners but reduced their sentences to a maximum of life in prison.

The blanket commutation follows an examination of the state’s capital punishment system that determined 13 prisoners on death row were innocent.

Ryan said he was a staunch supporter of the death penalty when he took office four years ago, but began to change his mind after watching a wrongfully convicted man walk free — only 48 hours before he was scheduled to be executed.

On Friday Ryan also pardoned four men convicted of murder, saying confessions were tortured out of them by police in Chicago.

In Washington, Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin called for a national review of the death penalty and a moratorium on executions.


  • Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington D.C.

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