Rauner Proposes Reinstating Death Penalty for Some Cases

Illinois hasn't put a criminal to death since 1999's execution of Andrew Kokoraleis

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday proposed the return of the death penalty in Illinois for certain cases. 

The proposal was part of Rauner's amendatory veto of House Bill 1468, which would have implemented a 72-hour waiting period on the sale of assault weapons in Illinois. 

The amendatory veto expands that waiting period proposal to all gun sales in Illinois, not just assault weapons, Rauner said at a news conference announcing the veto. Currently, there is a 72-hour waiting period for the sale of all handguns and a 24-hour waiting period for other rifles, shotguns and long guns.

The expansion of the waiting period was one of six "critical improvements to public safety" included in the amendatory veto, according to Rauner.

Among those proposals was the reinstatement of the death penalty in Illinois, specifically "for mass murderers and for those who kill law enforcement officers," Rauner said. 

"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."

The proposal resembled ones introduced by other Illinois legislators in 2015

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.

Also among the improvements suggested by Rauner in the amendatory veto were a "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 in Illinois. 

"Illinois prosecutors and judges for too long have cut plea agreements that have allowed dangerous individuals to be released early with no real accountability," Rauner said.

"We are calling for new legislation, new language that requires prosecutors and judges their rationale for plea agreements, especially those that result in the release of habitual, repeated gun offenders, so that the people of Illinois can clearly know how violent offenders, repeat violent offenders, are allowed back on the streets," he continued. 

The sixth change proposed in the amendatory veto was a reallocation of local sales tax revenue, by local referendum, to be put toward the hiring of "school resource officers, public safety officials and mental health professionals" to be placed in schools to prevent violence before it occurs, Rauner said. 

HB 1468 passed the Illinois Senate on March 14, the same day lawmakers joined students across the country in walking out to show support for the victims of school shootings and to call for reforms in gun safety laws. The bill was approved 43-15 and was delivered to the governor's desk on March 15. 

Monday marked the final day for the governor to take action on the bill. The veto sends it back to the General Assembly, beginning in the Illinois House, where it remained unclear if the changes would be approved.

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