1934: Marinus van der Lubbe, for the Reichstag fire 1928: Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray

2003: Nobody in Illinois

January 11th, 2009 Headsman

Six years ago today, a scandal-plagued governor of Illinois cleared out the state’s death row.

Republican George Ryan, in a speech two days before the end of his term, announced a mass commutation for anyone under sentence of death in Illinois — 157 people plus 10 others with pending legal challenges to vacated sentences, and four condemned men pardoned outright.

[flv:http://www.executedtoday.com/video/George_Ryan_clemency_announcement.flv 300 225]

Once a pro-death penalty legislator, Ryan grew increasingly discomfited with the state’s administration of the error-prone ultimate sanction.

That “demon of error” was dramatically unveiled for Ryan by Anthony Porter, a mentally retarded death row inmate who fortuitously avoided execution by two days on a legal technicality, and was subsequently exonerated by Northwestern University journalism students.

Seen as part of a pattern of wrongful convictions — like that of Rolando Cruz, who was cleared in the early 90’s despite the dogged efforts of then-Attorney General (and present-day quasi-Senator) Roland Burris to execute him in the face of exculpatory DNA evidence.

The governor imposed a moratorium on conducting executions for most of his term, culminating with this day’s controversial (though it did score him a Nobel Peace Prize nomination) announcement. Maybe there’s just something in the water at the Springfield governor’s mansion that attracts its residents to impolitic death penalty interventions.

Successor Rod Blagojevich called Ryan’s blanket clemency “a big mistake”, and his formal continuation of the Ryan moratorium on actual executions has been a dead letter since inheriting a vacant death row meant that no capital case reached the end of its appeals on his watch.

For the favor of sparing Blagojevich the burden of handling a death warrant — although one doesn’t get the sense that Blago is the type for a troubled conscience — George Ryan has been unkindly repaid.

Now residing in federal prison on corruption charges, the ex-governor’s own clemency petition has been complicated by sensational allegations of Blagojevich’s graft.

That petition is addressed to an outgoing executive oppositely inclined on the death row commutation question. Ryan authorized one actual execution early in his term, and spared this day’s host; George W. Bush, his virtual mirror image, has issued one commutation and carried out 155 executions during his time as chief executive of Texas and of the United States.

George Ryan is reportedly skeptical of his prospects for receiving a pardon.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Illinois,Not Executed,Pardons and Clemencies,Ripped from the Headlines,USA

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16 thoughts on “2003: Nobody in Illinois”

  1. lawguy says:

    I know this is a year late, but can we now accept that GWB authorized the torture of people because he did admit that in his memoriors, not that any politician or American court really cares.

  2. Mark Robinowitz says:

    There are lots of laws that Bush, et al., broke through their invasion and decimation of Iraq. A good place to start is the history of the Nuremberg trials, this website (Executed Today) has some good posts on that. I’m not saying the parallels are exact – they’re not at all – but waging “wars of aggression” were declared to be crimes against humanity by the US government, although that was a different administration than more recent ones.

    If you add up the bodies from the various US wars and all of the proxy wars that the US provided support to, the coups and toppling of elected governments, the number of bodies rivals the Nazi Holocaust in scale.

    The Genocide Convention states several ways that one can consider the crime of genocide, one need not rise to the level of an Eichmann for the charge to apply. Targeting populations based on their identity, imposing conditions that make normal life impossible, there are others, too.

    There is a range of estimates of the number of dead Iraqis from the US invasion, the low estimates are perhaps a hundred thousand, the high estimates are over a million. Millions were displaced as refugees. If the high estimates are accurate that would make the US invasion a higher level of victims than the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

  3. Dudley Sharp says:

    To: Dahn Shaulis, aka Vegas Quixote or vegasquixote or theamericaninjusticesystem or Jon Sheldon

    I don’t know what court to speak of because you haven’t identified the statutes/laws that were broken.

    SCOTUS is not a trial court, so, no, even in the US, I would be speaking of a trial court.

    Have you identified the laws brokne, yet?

  4. Dudley Sharp says:


    9-10 death row inmates have been released from death row because of DNA exclusion.

    herrera v Collins is key to what?

  5. vegasquixote says:

    Are you talking about the same US Supreme Court that gave Bush the 2000 rigged election? The Supreme Court that ignored the thousands of people who were disenfranchised in Florida? Or are you talking about the US Supreme Court that says torture is ok?

  6. Dudley Sharp says:

    To: Dahn Shaulis, aka Vegas Quixote or vegasquixote or theamericaninjusticesystem

    You need to be detailed about the statutes, the alleged crimes per those ststutes and the punishments for them, as stated, earlier.

    I didn’t say anything about the locations, as per your US reference. So, you should really attempt to be specific to the laws anywhere.

    Here is a recent ruling on wiretapping. So, you may be in error with everything else, as well. Try to be specific, otherwise it is just rhetoric.


  7. vegasquixote says:

    I suppose, Mr. Dudley Sharp, that initiating an unnecessary war that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands is not a crime in the US. Nor is promoting torture a crime in the US. Nor is wiretapping a crime in the US. Isn’t it great when an anti-social President can make and interpret the laws however he wishes?

  8. Dudley Sharp says:

    To: Dahn Shaulis, aka Vegas Quixote or vegasquixote

    The place to start is, you must

    identify the specific alleged crimes, the speific laws that were allegedly broken, as well as the sanctions that are available for those crimes within those specific statutes.

    That would be some good research for you to do, as it is your question.

    After you do all of that, come back and present it so that we can all take a look at what you have found.

    That’s the only responsible way for you to procede, meaning, you well may not do it. but, give it a go.

  9. vegasquixote says:

    Mr. Dudley Sharp, how about the mass killer George Bush? What should be done with this man who broke international laws?

  10. Dudley Sharp says:

    Ryan wanted a legacy for himself, beside the one of convicted, disgraced felon. Therefore, he went to the only constituency he could create, for himself, murderers and anti death penalty activists, because all other constituencies had, rightly, abandoned him.
    Regarding Ryan’s mass clemency, please read:

    “A Cruel Penalty for Victims”
    “Extending Mercy to the Wrong Group”
    George Ryan’s convictions
    George Ryan Sr.was convicted . . . “on  sweeping federal corruption charges of wielding power to help himself and his friends.”
    “. . . a federal jury . . . found Ryan guilty on all 18 counts of steering state business to cronies for bribes, of gutting corruption-fighting efforts to protect political fundraising and of misusing state resources for political gain.” “Ryan’s co-defendant, lobbyist and longtime friend Lawrence Warner, was also found guilty on all 12 counts against him.”
    “U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald called Ryan’s quashing of investigations into the sale of driver’s licenses for bribes as secretary of state ‘a low-water mark for public service.’ ”
    “With the verdicts, Operation Safe Road has snared 75 convictions, ranking it with Operation Greylord, the 1980s probe of judicial corruption, as the most successful federal investigations in modern Chicago history in reach and significance.”
    All from, “Ryan convicted in corruption trial”, Chicago Tribune, April 17, 2006 Matt O’Connor and Rudolph Bush, staff reporters

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