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The System is Broke, Time to Fix It

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The general media is making much to do over Illinois Governor George Ryan’s decision to reduce the death sentence of inmates to life in prison.

I heard some critics say the Governor circumvented the citizens’ jury system after they found the defendants guilty. They are angry and have declared that he overstepped his authority by issuing this executive order.

He did not overstep his authority because the authority is granted in the state constitution. It gives the governor this tool to use when he or she deems it necessary for the good of good government.

The governor found that more than half the lawyers involved in death penalty cases were later disbarred because of incompetence. He also found that the majority of the Black defendants received service from these lawyers.

His three year investigation also found that police officers were beating confessions from prisoners prior to going to court. His investigation also uncovered the fact that some of these officers had been fired for these violations after the death sentence was given.

Other evidence was uncovered by students from Northwestern University on the prisoners who were sentenced to death and sitting on Death Row. The governor did what any decent human being should do when faced with that decision and supporting evidence.

This Republican governor did what George Bush should have done in Texas while he was governor. Bush had evidence that some of the people on death row had lawyers who fell asleep during the trial.

Bush saw this as good legal representation so the state continued to pay them for sleeping on the job during death sentence cases.

In California we find ourselves facing a thirty five billion dollar budget deficit and Democratic Governor Gray Davis is proposing we spend $220 million to expand our death penalty prison capacity while decreasing funding for education and health care.

This action will only help to perpetuate our unfair justice system in California. If it is built it will be filled and guess by whom?

Every study completed has pointed out that if we educate our population we have less need for prison cells and a greater reduction in death penalty crimes. We have the same set of problems that plague Illinois.

I know that the families of the victims are saddened by the governor’s action but believe they would feel worse if after the execution of a prisoner he was found innocent of the crime for which he was convicted.

I wonder how the immediate family felt after Pilate released Barabas a known murderer, and decided to send a man named Jesus to death row. In that particular case we find a guilty person set free while the innocent person got the death penalty.

In America we talk with pride that our justice system is the best in the world, yet we know that when it comes to poor people and any person of color, the system does not treat us equally. It has been demonstrated time and time again.

I don’t know if the prisoners he reduced from death to life are guilty are not, he erred on the side of caution. He knows that once the switch has been pulled you cannot reverse the life of a dead person.

I know it is not easy for leaders to go against the majority of its citizens when it is the right thing to do.

Since the beginning of our government and other governments around the world this authority has been granted to heads of state and passed down to local jurisdictions.

It might be an unpopular decision but it was a very courageous one and much needed in our "kill hungry" civilized society. We need more leaders in government positions that are as courageous as Gov. George Ryan.

He truly believes in fairness, justice and the importance of repairing a system that is broken for so many Americans.

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