Pfleger Suggests Rauner ‘Should Be Charged With a Hate Crime’ for Proposing Return of Death Penalty

Father Michael Pfleger, the outspoken pastor of Chicago's Saint Sabina church, slammed Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposal to reinstate the death penalty in Illinois on Monday, saying in a statement that "perhaps" the governor "should be charged with a hate crime."

"While I remain against the death penalty for anyone, this announcement enforces the racist mentality that some lives are more valuable than others," Pfleger said.

"If he had wanted it for everyone, I would have disagreed with the principle," he continued, adding, "but when he puts police lives more valuable than the black and brown children dying everyday then perhaps Gov. Rauner should be charged with a hate crime!"

Rauner proposed the return of the death penalty for certain cases, specifically "for mass murderers and for those who kill law enforcement officers," he said at a news conference Monday morning.

"There must be a burden of proof where a person is guilty beyond all doubt," Rauner said. "Guilt beyond any doubt for killing a police officer or committing a mass murder, we then will impose the death penalty in Illinois."

According to Rauner, the proposal was one of six "critical improvements to public safety" included in an amendatory veto of House Bill 1468, which would have implemented a 72-hour waiting period on the sale of assault weapons in Illinois.

In addition to the death penalty, Rauner's veto included the expansion of the 72-hour waiting period to all gun sales in Illinois, not just assault weapons.

Rauner also proposed "complete ban" on bump stocks and trigger cranks, the creation of a firearm restraining order to "keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals," and transparency surrounding sentencing and plea agreements in Illinois, as well as the reallocation of local sales tax revenue to fund the placement of "resource officers, public safety officials and mental health professionals" in schools.

Illinois hasn't put a criminal to death since 1999's execution of Andrew Kokoraleis. Then-Gov. George Ryan shortly afterward declared a moratorium on the practice, disturbed by evidence that more than a dozen death row prisoners were actually innocent. In March 2011, then-Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill officially ending capital punishment in Illinois and simultaneously commuted the sentences of 15 prisoners.

Rauner's amendatory veto sends HB 1468 back to the General Assembly, where it was not clear if the changes would be approved.

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