Quick Hit Micah Maidenberg Tuesday February 15th, 2011, 11:18am

Full-Court Press For Death Penalty Abolition Heats Up

A month and two days after the General Assembly sent Gov. Pat Quinn SB 3539 -- the death penalty abolition bill -- the full-court press to convince the governor to sign it is on.

The Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is pushing its supporters to call Quinn, sign petitions, and write pro-abolition letters to the end. Today at noon outside state government's Thompson Center in Chicago, advocates from the Campaign to End the Death Penalty will rally for the legislation, noting that Jan. 31 marked the 11-year anniversary of ex-Gov. Ryan's death penalty moratorium. Illinois Issues noted yesterday that a group of exonerated death row inmates called Witness to Innocence is pushing Quinn to add his signature to the bill as well. Lt. Gov. Shelia Simon is calling on the governor to sign the legislation. Dozens of high-profile members of the state's legal community are on board with SB 3539 as well.

As Quinn ponders his options, pro-death penalty members of the General Assembly are stepping into the void. State Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) and Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst) are planning to introduce legislation into the new General Assembly that would allow use of the death penalty in what Dillard told the Daily Herald was the "worst of cases." Twenty people sent to Illinois' death row have been exonerated since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1977.

UPDATE (11:58 a.m.): Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty executive director Jeremy Schroeder tells Progress Illinois it isn't necessarily a bad thing that Quinn, who has indicated he supports capital punishment in the past, has yet to make a move on SB 3539. "We'd like him to sign it as soon as possible but we want the governor to take the time he needs to examine the bill and look at his conscience," he said. In making the case to sign the bill to the govenor and his staff, Schroeder says the most effective point is simply going over the state's death penalty system's "shameful history" and continuing problems. The governor, the by way, has until March 18 to sign or reject the abolition bill.

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