Local Editorials

Our view: Death penalty best left in past

Gov. Bruce Rauner addresses reporters May 8 outside his office at the Capitol in Springfield. Rauner, a Republican, wants to reinstate the death penalty in the state.
Gov. Bruce Rauner addresses reporters May 8 outside his office at the Capitol in Springfield. Rauner, a Republican, wants to reinstate the death penalty in the state.

Illinois has not executed anyone in almost
20 years. We don’t need to bring the practice back now.

That’s what Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed, however, in his amendatory veto of a gun-control measure that would require a three-day waiting period before a person can buy an assault rifle. Rauner wants the death penalty reinstated in Illinois for people convicted of heinous crimes such as killing police or multiple murderers.

To Rauner’s credit, his proposal appears to be a legitimate attempt at compromise with Democrats who control the state Legislature. Not only is Rauner willing to agree to the extended waiting period, his rewrite of the bill proposes a ban on bump stocks, which can simulate automatic fire. It also calls for a process allowing police to seize the weapons of people who are deemed dangerous.

Reopening death row in 2018 would be impractical and expensive, and would put Illinois on the wrong side of the trend around the country when it comes to executions.

Although it still is permitted in the majority of states, more states are abandoning capital punishment. Illinois is one of six states to abandon the practice since 2007. Others, such as Washington and Delaware, have seen executions halted, much as they were in Illinois for years before capital punishment was formally abolished.

Those states that still impose the ultimate penalty are having a harder time doing it. The state of Alabama had to settle with a man it tried to execute in February after it failed to kill him after almost three hours of trying. They also had to abandon plans to execute him.

Oklahoma botched an execution in 2014, causing a man to writhe in pain for about 20 minutes because the lethal injection drugs didn’t work. The condemned man later died of a heart attack.

Drug companies have protested the use of their medicines for lethal injection purposes. The lack of supply has led to delays in executions in states such as South Carolina.

The death penalty, as it is applied in 2018, usually involves repeated appeals. It provides more publicity for sinister people convicted of despicable crimes. Sometimes, it ends with the state killing in the name of the people.

That’s only provided that they can get their hands on the drugs they need to kill, and that they can properly perform the procedure.

None of that is guaranteed, nor is it guaranteed that the person executed actually will be guilty of the crime for which they are paying an irreversible penalty.

Illinois removed itself from this situation years ago. There’s no need for the state to go back to executing people.

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