Deathrow_827_at, Death row inmates scurry for review by Gov. Ryan

By Gus Bode

160 Illinois prison inmates sent petitions to Springfield

Springfield was bombarded with petitions Monday when Illinois inmates facing death row pushed for review before Gov. George Ryan leaves office.

The 160 inmates are seeking clemency from the death penalty, and the review board is ready for the challenge as November looms in the future.

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“We will make the time,” said Illinois Prison Review Board Chairwoman Anne Taylor.

The review process takes 15 minutes to read the petition and 15 minutes to hear any opposition in the case, Taylor said. The board will then make a recommendation to Gov. Ryan, and he will make a decision.

There is controversy surrounding Ryan’s thoughts on granting a blanket commutation. A commutation is when a prisoner on death row is taken off death row.

Attorney General Jim Ryan voiced concerns in the Chicago Tribune yesterday and said he is opposed to a blanket commutation and would like each case to receive individual attention.

Taylor said she didn’t know what kind of kickback a blanket commutation would have on the prison system because it’s never happened before.

“Every case is different,” Taylor said.

Blagojevich supports the governor on this issue, but he is urging Gov. Ryan to deal with every case on an individual basis, said Billy Weinberg, Blagojevich’s press secretary.

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“It would be improper to do anything else,” Weinberg said. “It’s not something he looks at lightly.”

Though Blagojevich supports the death penalty, he also supports the moratorium imposed by Gov. Ryan. Ryan set up a commission last April that suggested 85 recommendations to eliminate errors with in the Illinois criminal justice system. Ryan spearheaded the commission in light of 12 wrongly executed prisoners since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977.

Blagojevich said the laws and policies regarding the death penalty should be reviewed and put more in-line with the way is was originally intended, which he said is to deal with each case based on the individual’s merits or faults, said Weinberg.

“It’s the prerogative of the sitting governor to deal with those circumstances,” Weinberg said.

Reporter Arin Thompson can be reached at [email protected]

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