Republican Governor George Ryan of Illinois made national news last month by announcing that he would halt executions until properly satisfied that "everyone sentenced to death in Illinois is truly guilty." His concern isn't difficult to understand. Since Illinois reinstated the death penalty in 1977, more death row inmates have been exonerated (13) than executed (12), and more than half the state's 285 death sentences have been reversed on appeal. Ryan's decision makes Illinois the first of the country's 38 death penalty states to formally suspend executions, and it has generated a flood of attention. "One Courageous Governor" declared the St. Petersburg Times. "Principled Governor Bravely Halts Executions," blared the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Sleeping Lawyers, Mass Executions, and George W. Bush's Abdication of Responsibility
Alan Berlow ["Lethal Injustice," TAP Vol. 11 Issue 10] is a former National Public Radio reporter who frequently writes on capital justice issues. He is also the author of Dead Season: A Story of Murder and Revenge (Vintage Books).
Q: How legitimate is George W. Bush's claim -- frequently used to distance himself from actual executions -- that he essentially lacks the power to halt an execution?
Some Democrats may have lost faith that they'll be electing another president in the year 2000. But a host of evangelical novelists seem to think a liberal president in the new millennium is a near certainty. They just expect his stay in office will be a short one. And his downfall won't come by scandal, character issues, or a Republican Congress, but by the end of the world.