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Tuesday, Nov. 30, 1999 06:00 pm

Illinois death penalty repealed

Advocates say work isn’t over


Death row exoneree Randy Steidl speaks to reporters about repealing capital punishment in Illinois.

The death penalty has been abolished in Illinois, but advocates say the fight isn’t over.

On March 9, Gov. Pat Quinn signed Senate Bill 3539, which abolishes the death penalty and redirects money that would have been spent on capital cases toward services for families of murder victims and training for police. Even so, some death penalty opponents are taking the fight to other states and to the federal government, while others plan to fight efforts already under way to reinstate capital punishment in Illinois.

Former death row inmate Randy Steidl, who was convicted of a double murder in 1987 and exonerated in 2004, became a vocal opponent of the death penalty after his release, and he says he will continue to push for repeal of the death penalty elsewhere. Steidl works with Witness to Innocence, a group of exonerated death row survivors, to lobby state and federal legislators for abolition of capital punishment. His next stop, he says, will be Montana, where that state’s legislature is considering a similar repeal measure.

“There’s always going to be wrongful convictions, whether there’s a death row or not,” Steidl says. “We’ve seen guys exonerated after 30 years with DNA. If he was on death row, he wouldn’t have had 30 years to have that DNA test. That’s why people need to open their eyes and realize you can’t have an irreversible system when you know full well innocent people go to prison.”

Jeremy Schroeder, executive director of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, says that, while he may soon be out of a job thanks to the repeal, the coalition will continue to work against capital punishment.

“Unfortunately, I think the only reward is unemployment for me,

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