Former Sen. Simon emphasized that although the report found "no statistical evidence" of racial discrimination in how the death penalty is applied in Illinois, "in reality the death penalty is reserved for people who do not have enough money to defend themselves."
Many proposals require action by the Legislature and are likely to face a chilly reception in the Republican-dominated state Senate. Democrats have a majority in Illinois' lower house but success is not assured there either.
Nine measures are pending in the Illinois General Assembly related to death penalty reform. These include a bill that requires videotaping of interrogations in capital cases, one of the key recommendations in the Ryan commission report.
A spokesman for Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), the speaker of the Assembly, said he was not optimistic about the prospect for reform. "We have introduced a bill on videotaping confessions the last two or three sessions and it has gotten nowhere because prosecutors and police have argued that such a regulation would tie their hands in terms of effectively investigating capital crimes," said Steve Brown.