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Few on List for Clemency in Illinois

January 02, 2003|From Associated Press

CHICAGO — A state panel recommended clemency for fewer than 10 of more than 140 death row inmates who sought commutation of their sentences to life in prison, Associated Press has learned.

Gov. George Ryan is not bound by the Prisoner Review Board's recommendations on the inmates' cases. He is considering granting clemency for each of the state's 160 condemned inmates before he leaves office Jan. 13.

Two sources close to the board, who spoke on condition of anonymity, would not say exactly how many prisoners were recommended for clemency nor identify the inmates.

Ryan halted executions three years ago and called the Illinois death penalty system "fraught with error" after courts found 13 men on death row had been wrongly convicted since the state resumed capital punishment in 1977.

In October, the board held a series of emotional hearings on clemency petitions filed by more than 140 death row inmates. Ever since, Ryan has been lobbied intensely by both death penalty advocates and opponents. Ryan's office could not be reached for comment. Craig Findley, a board member who participated in the hearings and became board chairman Wednesday, declined to discuss the board's recommendation.

"What's important here is not what the board recommends, but what the governor ultimately decides," he said.

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