April 15, 2002

To ensure fairness in how it imposes the death penalty, Illinois must implement sweeping changes in the criminal justice system, according to a report issued today by a bipartisan commission appointed by Gov. George Ryan and co-chaired by Jenner & Block Partner Thomas P. Sullivan.

The 207-page report, supplemented with nearly 600 pages of appendices, has been called "perhaps the most comprehensive study of capital punishment prepared by a governmental body".  Following the release of the report, Mr. Sullivan, a former U.S. Attorney, was widely quoted in the national media including the New York Times, the Chicago Sun-Times and USA Today.

"In medical terms, our report calls for triage, an attempt to staunch the extraordinary rate of errors, reversals and convictions in capital cases," the Los Angeles Times quoted Mr. Sullivan as saying. "The message from this report is clear: Repair or repeal. Fix the capital punishment system or abolish it. There is no other principled course."

The Commission on Capital Punishment's report, called by the Chicago Tribune "the product of two years of research and study into the state's troubled death penalty system," made 85 recommendations, including reducing the number of crimes eligible for the death penalty from 20 to five and banning the execution of the mentally retarded.  Accepting the report, Gov. Ryan called on the state legislature to turn the proposals into law to preserve the integrity of the criminal justice system, which he said had been undermined by flaws in the death penalty system.