Some legislators in Illinois are attempting to revive the state's newly
outlawed death penalty, even as some legislators in Missouri are trying to
Neither movement appears likely to win this year, but in both states it's a
debate that won't cease.
"The governor was wrong to abolish the death penalty," said Illinois state Rep.
Dennis Reboletti, R-Elmhurst, referring to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn's support
for the abolition law that he signed last year, making Illinois the 16th state
to abolish executions.
Though that law has been in place for less than a year, Reboletti has filed
legislation to return Illinois to the same column as Missouri, which still
condemns and executes inmates. He argues that, from a killer's eyes, the
differences between the two systems are stark.
"If someone is going to get life without parole for shooting one person, what
stops them from shooting more when it's the same punishment?" Reboletti asked.
Meanwhile, in Missouri, state Rep. Mike McGhee, R-Odessa, and state Rep. Penny
Hubbard, D-St. Louis, have filed two bills proposing to follow Illinois and
abolish the state's longstanding death penalty.
They are using 2 of the main arguments of Illinois' death-penalty opponents:
that the death penalty is too costly and that the risk of executing innocent
people is too high.
McGhee said Illinois' abolishment of the death penalty last year "opened my
eyes to the problem," including the price tag.
"It costs too much money. We should save it and give it to the veterans or
seniors, McGhee said. "It's just money being wasted."
The Post-Dispatch reported last spring that Illinois spent an estimated $100
million since 2003 through the Capital Litigation Trust Fund, money set aside
expenses in capital trials.
When Quinn signed the abolishment of the state's death penalty into law last
year, he designated the remaining money in the fund to be used toward services
for crime victims' families.
Another factor cited by capital punishment opponents is the potential risk of
executing an innocent person. Illinois exonerated 13 men from death row prior
to the abolition law.
Larry Golden, director of the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project, said if
Illinois lawmakers continue to pursue the possibility of bringing back the
death penalty, they should be "extremely cautious" about finding adequate
funding for trial expenses.
"Unless the state is going to provide resources to allow all people who are
convicted of serious crimes to defend themselves, it could lead to an increase
in false convictions," Golden said.
Missouri has executed 68 people since 1976, the fifth highest in the country,
according to DeathPenaltyInfo.org. There are currently 47 inmates on Missouri's
McGhee said if his legislation passes, the state would commute the sentences of
those inmates to life in prison, as Illinois did last year with its 15 death