Profs support veto in death penalty reform

Jeff Stone

Though Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s decision to send a death penalty reform bill back to the state legislature may seem like a step backward, officials at Northwestern say they support the temporary delay of Illinois criminal reforms.

Rob Warden, executive director of NU’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, said the center agreed with Blagojevich’s veto of a portion of the bill that called for the removal of a police officer’s badge if the officer committed perjury in a homicide case. When the general assembly reconvenes in September, the legislature could vote to overturn the governor’s veto.

Greg Sullivan, executive director of the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association, said the vetoed part of the proposal was “bad public policy.” He objected to the proposed use of an administrative board made up of mayors, city managers, police chiefs, sheriffs and police union representatives to decide if perjury occurred.

“It is not their role,” Sullivan said. “This should be dealt with in the courts. If prosecuted and convicted an officer would lose their certification as a police officer. A police officer has the same rights to defend themselves in court as anyone else who commits a felony.”

According to Blagojevich’s Web site, the governor supports the rest of the bill, which aims to prohibit the execution of people judged mentally retarded and require prosecutors to disclose promises made in exchange for testimony, among a long list of other reforms.

The bill also calls for the implementation of a two-year program to study the taping of first-degree murder suspects in Cook County and three other areas in the state. Blagojevich previously signed legislation July 17 mandating interrogations be taped.

“While I support the death penalty, I am not convinced that these reforms can immediately solve the problems facing our system of administering the death penalty,” a release on Blagojevich’s Web site said. “As a result, the moratorium on capital punishment will remain in effect.