The ABA, Rome, React to Gov. Ryan's Moratorium

ABA president, Rome officials, commend Gov. for blocking upcoming executions, but state's prosecutors not so sure

Darryl Van Duch
American Lawyer Media 
February 3, 2000 

The ongoing reaction to Illinois Governor George Ryan's promise to block all future executions until due process can be ensured continues to be mixed -- with extreme views overshadowing moderate views. 

American Bar Association president Bill Paul, for instance, said on Wednesday he strongly "commends" Ryan for his first-of-a-kind gesture. "Gov. Ryan's leadership should be followed by conscientious public officials in other jurisdictions," Paul said. 

Officials in Rome also approved of Ryan's move. According to AP, the lights at Rome's ancient Coliseum were colored golden Tuesday "in honor" of the precedent-setting Illinois moratorium on executions. 

Ryan said he is imposing a moratorium on executions in Illinois because of the state's troubling track record of exonerating more death row inmates than it has executed. Since reinstating the death penalty in 1977, Illinois has cleared 13 death row inmates and put 12 to death. 

As early as 1997, the ABA called for a halt to executions until jurisdictions that impose the death penalty adopt policies to ensure "fundamental fairness and due process." 

However, at least two state's attorneys reportedly said they had their doubts about Ryan's wisdom -- or, his motives. 

Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons said the governor's moratorium was "an attempt to deflect attention" from the fact that a former top aid, Dean Bauer, was charged Tuesday in connection with a license-bribery scandal at the Secretary of State's office under the governor's watch, the Peoria Journal Star reported. 

And DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett announced on Wednesday that, notwithstanding the governor's moratorium, he would seek the death penalty for Marilyn Lemak, charged with drugging and suffocating her three children last year, the Chicago Tribune stated. 

According to an earlier report appearing in the Daily Herald, Birkett said state law obligated him and other local prosecutors to pursue the death penalty in appropriate cases. 

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