Quinn silent on death penalty ban

January 25, 2011 3:41:35 PM PST
Gov. Pat Quinn has neither signed nor vetoed the death penalty ban passed by the state legislature earlier this month and he's been tight-lipped about what he will do.

Many are frustrated by the lack of resolution on the death penalty issue.

Edreick Justice's daughter Erin, according to prosecutors, was murdered in 2004 by her stepfather, Laurence Lovejoy. Justice has a message for Quinn.

"Do your job. Let us be safe, and let us know that justice is served for people that deserve the punishment," said Justice.

In a Wheaton courtroom Tuesday, Lovejoy's capital murder case got underway, even as the governor remains silent on whether he'll sign or veto a bill to abolish the state's death penalty.

"As taxpayers, we can't put kids through school, but we pay them for life in prison and feed them, house them, clothe them. If you do a horrendous crime, you deserve a horrendous punishment," said Justice.

As the death penalty's fate hangs in the balance, some say defendants' fates could be affected in the meantime.

In court Monday, DuPage County Judge John Kinsella called "grossly irresponsible," saying "he needs to state his position one way or the other."

A governor's spokesperson says he's still studying the bill and hearing opinions on the issue.

"Because this is such a significant piece of legislation and because of what this new law would mean for the state of Illinois, we think it would be irresponsible not to be reviewing this extremely carefully before acting on it," said Annie Thompson, Quinn's press secretary.

"It leaves judges in an awkward position, it leaves prosecutors in an awkward position, it leaves everybody in an awkward position. And there's no need for it," said Andrea Lyon, DePaul University law professor.

Lyon, an anti-death penalty advocate, says everything from jury selection to resources and scheduling are different in capital cases. She says that can influence verdicts.

"I would imagine that most judges, most prosecutors and most defense attorneys would prefer not to do anything much on these cases until we know whether we have a death penalty in Illinois at all," said Lyon.

For years, a death penalty moratorium has been in place in Illinois, but prosecutors have continued to seek capital punishment. If the governor signs the bill, all sentences, past, present and future, would be affected.

Quinn has until mid-March to sign or veto the bill. If he does nothing, it becomes law on its own.