During the 1980s and '90s, Ryan was the political face for the local version of the "law and order" movement. He was a no-nonsense suburban state's attorney and later Illinois attorney general who, to this day, still wants to be governor.
But most of his 25 years in elective politics have been haunted by a matter he wants to at long last put behind him - the case of Rolando Cruz. It has clouded Ryan's career for nearly a quarter of a century.
"In DuPage County, his subordinates were allowed to run free and wild and do what they wanted to do to prosecute and attempt to execute," Cruz said Thursday.
Ryan won election and re-election as Illinois attorney general in 1994 and '98. He lost a race for governor in 2002 and is running again for governor this year. He held off comment on the Cruz/Hernandez case until Dugan was finally sentenced Wednesday.
"In the Cruz-Hernandez cases, the system and I failed to achieve a just outcome. And for that I am sorry," Ryan said in a statement.
"If he was not running for governor, no, he would not have offered an apology. The proof is in the pudding, as they say," Cruz said.
Ryan lost the governor's race to Rod Blagojevich in 2002, and this year he is one of seven Republicans vying for the party's 2010 nomination.
"I will not lift the moratorium on capital punishment until we have created a more limited and accurate system of capital punishment," Ryan said in his statement.
Already, several of his primary opponents say they will do the opposite.
"The death penalty is the law of the land, and no governor stands above any law, let alone the death penalty," said State Sen. Bill Brady, (R) candidate for governor.
Another candidate, State Senator Kirk Dillard, said he also would lift the moratorium. A spokesman for another candidate, Andy McKenna, said he would review the situation before deciding to lift it.