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Death Penalty Complicates Ill. Plan

February 6, 2002

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) _ Gov. George Ryan’s concerns about the death penalty are complicating the future of anti-terrorism legislation overwhelmingly approved by lawmakers.

A top lawmaker said Tuesday that state legislators will likely override the governor if he vetoes part of a bill allowing the death penalty for murders committed during a terrorist act.

``When somebody kills 3,100 people that you can account for, I think they deserve the death penalty,″ said Senate President James Philip.

Ryan, a Republican, declared a moratorium on executions two years ago after the courts found that 13 people had been wrongly convicted and sent to death row. He appointed a commission to suggest ways of improving Illinois’ death penalty procedures.

Ryan said he does not want to sign any law expanding the death penalty while that commission is deliberating.

``I said that I didn’t want to do anything that was going to influence my commission, and if I sign that bill with the death penalty in it, it might indicate some way that I’d like to have them report,″ the governor said Monday. ``I’ve done my best in two years not to signal how I may or may not feel about it.″

The measure, backed by State Attorney General Jim Ryan and approved in November, gives police new power to tap phones and obtain search warrants when investigating possible terrorism. It also allows a statewide grand jury to investigate terrorism and the attorney general to freeze terrorists’ assets.

The bill, which adds terrorist acts to the list of crimes eligible for the death penalty, automatically becomes law on Saturday unless the governor vetoes it. Ryan also has the option of rewriting the legislation and lawmakers can then accept the changes or reject them with a three-fifths majority.


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Illinois General Assembly: http://www.legis.state.il.us

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