... 2003, then-Gov. George Ryan commuted the sentences of 163 men and 4 women condemned to death in Illinois. His speech announcing the decision concluded:
This is a blanket commutation. I didn't believe I would do it myself. I realize it will draw ridicule, scorn and anger from many who oppose this decision. They'll say that I am usurping the decisions of judges and juries and state legislators. But as I have said, the people of our state have vested in me to act in the interest of justice. Even if the exercise of my power becomes my burden, I'll bear it. Because our Constitution compels it. I sought this office, and even in my final days of holding it I can't shrink from the obligations to justice and fair ness that it demands.
There have been many days and many nights where my staff and I have been deprived of sleep in order to conduct the exhaustive review of the system. But I can tell you this: I'm going to sleep well tonight knowing I made the right decision.
Ryan's decision launched a moratorium that remains in place to this day, although whether to continue the halt on executions in Illinois is a subject of debate in the current gubernatorial race.
(Prior January 11 posts are here and here.)