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Ill. Panel To Study Death Penalty

March 9, 2000

CHICAGO (AP) _ Former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon and lawyer-novelist Scott Turow are among the people Gov. George Ryan has chosen to study Illinois’ death penalty system and recommend reforms.

``We have selected the best, brightest and the most honorable people in Illinois,″ Ryan said today at a news conference to announce the 14-member panel.

Frank McGarr, a former federal judge, will head the panel. Simon, director of the Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, and former U.S. Attorney Thomas Sullivan will also be co-chairmen.

``I would like to commend the governor for his courage in facing up to this issue,″ said Simon, who opposes the death penalty.

In late January, Ryan imposed a moratorium on executions and said he would appoint a committee to help evaluate the system. The decision followed the release of 13 death-row inmates in recent years _ one more than the state has executed since capital punishment was reinstated in 1977.

In most of those cases, prosecutors acknowledged they had the wrong man after they were confronted with DNA evidence, new witnesses or confessions from others. In other cases, the inmates’ convictions were thrown out on appeal and prosecutors have yet to pursue retrials.

``My only direction to this commission is to remind them ... that until I can be sure that everyone sentenced to death in Illinois is guilty ... no one will meet that fate,″ Ryan said.

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