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Abolish the death penalty

October 11, 2002 | Page 10

CHICAGO--Some 100 people came out to a town-hall meeting October 5 to urge Illinois Gov. George Ryan to commute the sentence of every Illinois death row prisoner.

Nearly three years ago, Ryan imposed the first statewide moratorium on executions in the country, declaring that the state's death penalty system was "broken."

With an election coming in November that will replace him with one of two pro-death penalty candidates, Ryan is considering commuting the sentences of all death row prisoners--and he has said that he may issue a blanket commutation, rather than try to judge the amount of injustice in each case.

But supporters of the death penalty--including the Republicans running for governor and attorney general, Jim Ryan and Joe Birkett--are lashing out. They've mobilized a campaign of lies--in the name of defending the rights of victims--to pressure George Ryan.

Larry Marshall, director of Northwestern University's Center on Wrongful Convictions, urged the crowd to oppose these slanders. "Here we are, two or three months away from a decision that seems so real, so possible and, of course, so right," Marshall said. "We need to be out there like we never have been before. We are this close to making it happen. But if we become complacent, then the momentum is going to shift."

The Campaign to End the Death Penalty is organizing an October 16 rally and press conference to present petitions calling for blanket commutations to Ryan's office in Chicago. "We have to be sure that he doesn't just hear from the likes of Jim Ryan and Joe Birkett--that he hears what we have to say," said Marlene Martin, of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

For the October 16 rally, meet at 4 p.m. at the State of Illinois Building (Randolph and Clark).

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