The clock is winding down on Gov. Pat Quinn, who will soon decide what to do about a bill that would ban the death penalty in Illinois. Passed in January, the landmark piece of legislation has sparked correspondence to Quinn from people on both sides of the issue. But, the bulk of the lobbying has been in favor of the ban, with a Quinn spokesman reporting that the governor received letters from 12,000 people in support of the bill, compared with 700 people who wrote in hoping to convince Quinn to veto it.
Yesterday, the Quinn administration released more than 160 pages of that correspondence in response to a Freedom of Information Act request made by the Chicago Sun-Times. Some of the notable proponents of the bill include international politicians, including those from Great Britain and Germany; Bishop Desmond Tutu; best-selling author Scott Turow; New Orleans' Sister Helen Prejean; and Cardinal Francis George. Quinn, who is Catholic, has said he will let his conscience do the deciding on whether or not he should sign the bill, not the church.
Meanwhile, victims' families and prosecutors are asking the governor to veto the bill with the latter arguing that the death penalty allows for more bargaining room with suspects. Prosecutors also say a ban on the death penalty would limit or revoke their access to the Capital Litigation Trust Fund, a pot of state money that helps jurisdictions pay for death penalty trials. Attorney General Lisa Madigan sent a letter to Quinn asking that he veto the bill saying that there should be "a just punishment that fits the despicable nature" of certain crimes.
Quinn has until March 18 to make a final decision on signing the bill. If he signs it, he will also have to decide what to do with the 15 individuals currently sitting on death row in Illinois.