CHICAGO (AP) — William Cousins Jr., a prominent figure in Illinois legal circles and a former appellate judge, has died at age 90.

Cousins' daughter, Cheryl Cousins, told the Chicago Sun-Times her father died Saturday in Chicago. She did not give the cause.

As a Cook County judge, Cousins in 1979 declared Illinois' death penalty unconstitutional, deeming it "cruel and unusual" and "freakishly imposed." That was 32 years before the state abolished it.

In the 1960s, Cousins, a former assistant state's attorney, bucked the powerful political machine of Mayor Richard J. Daley and was elected one of the era's few independent Chicago aldermen. He became a circuit judge in 1976 and was elected to the appellate court in 1992.

The Mississippi-born Cousins graduated from Harvard Law School in 1951. He married his wife, Hiroko, after meeting her in Japan during his Korean War service. She died in 2005. He is survived by four children and four grandchildren.