Gov. Pat Quinn today signed into law a historic ban on the death penalty in Illinois and commuted the sentences of 15 death row inmates to life without parole.
The governor said he followed his conscience. He said he believed in signing the bill he also should “abolish the death penalty for everyone,” including those already on death row.
“Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history,” Quinn told reporters afterward. “I think it’s the right, just thing to abolish the death penalty.”
This is a clear example of political courage and moral leadership on a question of fundamental human rights. But it also represents a challenge to both citizens and elected officials of other states who have not thought critically about the death penalty or who currently refuse to do so. Take a good look at the facts, consider your other moral and political commitments, and start working toward the day when every American state comes to the same conclusion as Illinois: we can keep ourselves safe, we can stand for the rule of law, and we can support victims of violence … all without taking lives.