In a whirlwind reversal, the Illinois House voted to repeal the state's death penalty hours after an initial attempt failed.
The repeal measure came up one vote short during a 59-58 tally earlier Thursday. But a second vote yielded the required 60 votes. The measure passed 60-54.
Supporters said it was time to end a sad history in Illinois in which 20 people condemned to death have been freed after exoneration or new evidence surfaced which cast doubt on their convictions.
Three Illinois governors have observed a moratorium on capital punishment for a decade. But critics of abolition said the ultimate punishment has been fixed, remains a deterrent and should remain an option for families seeking justice.
The Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty applauded the House's move.
"It’s clear our lawmakers know what many Illinoisans see: the death penalty is broken beyond repair, and it must end now. The House should be applauded for embracing that reality and no longer letting this issue fester. Now we call on the Senate to quickly follow suit and vote to end this system immediately," the organizations's executive director, Jeremy Schroeder, said in a written statement.
The bill now heads to the Illinois Senate for consideration. Senate President John Cullerton said he supports abolishing the death penalty, but stopped short of saying he would ask other senators to support the bill.
The Chicago Democrat said that it's a very personal decision and that senators should vote their conscience.