While some say the new law gives the wrongly-accused breathing room, others say it's a loss of an important tool for justice.
Gov. Pat Quinn signed historic legislation on Wednesday to abolish the death penalty in Illinois, making the state the fourth since 2007 and the fifteenth altogether to rid its books of capital punishment.
In signing the bill, Quinn also commuted the sentences of 15 inmates on Death Row to life in prison.
The bill passed the Senate with a 32-25 vote in January. The Illinois House also approved the measure.
"For me, this was a difficult decision, quite literally the choice between life and death," Quinn said in a statement following the signing. "This was not a decision to be made lightly, or a decision that I came to without deep personal reflection."
Quinn said he has concluded that the system is "inherently flawed" and that he has seen no credible evidence of the death penalty deterring crimes of murder.
"As a state, we cannot tolerate the executions of innocent people because such actions strike at the very legitimacy of a government."
Quinn signed the bill Wednesday surrounded by a small group of lawmakers who supported it, including Sen. Kwame Raoul, the Chicago Democrat who sponsored the measure.
Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday he supported Quinn's decision, reminding press after an unrelated meeting that President Obama had legislation dealing with capital punishment reform.
"I'm glad he's made that decision," Emanuel said. "Obviously he thought hard about that."