Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner's announcement Monday pushing to reinstatement the death penalty surprised many.
One of his successors, Pat Quinn (D), signed legislation that abolished the death penalty entirely in 2011.
Rauner's proposal and his amendatory veto on Monday came as state lawmakers are looking to finish their work in the next two weeks, including passing a state budget.
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Rauner's proposal would allow a jury to impose the death penalty only in cases where someone is found guilty "beyond all doubt" - a higher standard than the constitutionally guaranteed "reasonable doubt" requirement for most criminal cases. "So many times the person's caught in the act or so many times there's multiple witnesses and they're fleeing the act and there's no question of who did it". "And they deserve to give up their life when they take the life of a police officer, our heroes, or they take the life of many people". He also called for an extended waiting period for any gun purchases, advocated for restraining orders to be used to "disarm unsafe individuals" and asked for judges and prosecutors to have to explain reduced charges in plea deals reached in gun cases.
"If someone is perhaps on the verge of committing suicide, if someone is potentially a unsafe person and they have violent acts in mind, that extra two days could make the difference between life and death", Rauner said Monday at a news conference in Chicago.
Rauner's amendatory veto would create a new category of homicide called "death penalty murder" and would apply to those 18 and over who prosecutors charge with killing police officers or two or more people.
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Republican Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, also released a statement in which he supported reinstating the death penalty for what he called "the most serious of violent crimes".
"On its merits, the governor's proposal is a awful idea", she said.
Senator Steve Stadelman spent years reporting on the topic of capital punishment. We didn't propose the death penalty lightly. "It's appalling again in the light of this state's wrongful conviction problem that this would be proposed", said Karen Daniel, director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions. "For Bruce to say that the lives of police are more important than the lives of our children out here being shot and killed, I'd say charge Bruce Rauner with a hate crime", said Fr. Michael Pfleger pastor of St. Sabina Church on Chicago's South Side. The death penalty provision is part of an amendatory veto of legislation that would have put a 72-hour waiting period for the purchase of assault weapons in place.
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