Website analyzes homicides in decade prior to abolition of Illinois death penalty

Cat Zakrzewski, Assistant Campus Editor

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A database developed by the Northwestern School of Law cites statistics about murder in Illinois between 2000 and 2010, according to a University release.

Leigh Bienen, a senior lecturer at the School of Law, collected the data while working for the Illinois Committee to Study the Reform of the Death Penalty, according to the release. The database, which cites indictments of more than 2,200 murders, will “attract a broad range of researchers, including criminologists, criminal law researchers, historians, economists and others,” according to the release. The release added families of victims and defendants may also make use of the database.

“New murder databases are relatively rare,” Bienen said in the release. “And this new homicide database covers a very important jurisdiction – Illinois – during a period of significant and very interesting legal change, the time leading up to the abolition of the death penalty in 2011.”

The database has many capabilities, including the ability to cross-reference information on defendants with data on criminal convictions and criminal convictions from the Illinois Department of Corrections, according to the release. Final results of Illinois murder prosecutions are also available through research of newspaper articles.

“It’s now very easy, for example, to compare this set of murder indictments in Illinois with information on cases from another state,” Bienen said in the release.

The database enables users to compare indictments for a particular year, by county or by city, according to the release.

“If there’s a murder in Cook County or Lake County during the period, for instance, a reporter can check the database to see if the person was indicted and follow up with information from the Department of Corrections to see if there was a sentence,” Bienen said in the release. “You can search our database by county or for name of victim and for name of defendant, as well as for the date of murder and the date of indictment.”

The new database continues Bienen’s work on homicide in Illinois, which resulted in the creation of the Historical Homicide website, which now has had more than 1 million visitors since it was created, according to the release.