Counterpoint: Why Illinois needs a new death penalty law

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Illinois Gov. James Thompson in 1977 shakes the hand of the chief house sponsor of the Illinois death penalty bill, Red. Roman Kosinski, D-Chicago, right, after signing the bill into law in Springfield.

Two United States Supreme Court justices recently issued an opinion that challenges the constitutionality of the death penalty and asserts that it should be abolished. One has been quoted as saying “at the very least, the Court should call for full briefing on the basic question” of the death penalty.

I am not writing to contest that opinion, but rather to explain why I have filed legislation to reinstate the death penalty here in Illinois.

OPINION

We need a mechanism in place to effectively deal with criminals who commit heinous acts that result in violent deaths. That may sound like a familiar argument, but it is applied completely different within the language of the bill I filed. My legislation (HB 4059) and instead creates the Capital Crimes Litigation Act of 2015.

The death penalty provision in my legislation is targeted at the worst of the worst. I am speaking of ironclad cases that are free of the flaws that have, in some past cases, led to wrongful convictions or discriminatory treatment. Under my legislation, the death penalty would be a sentencing option for criminals convicted of first degree murder of a child under 12, the murder of multiple victims, murder on school grounds, murder as a result of terrorism or the murder of a first responder.

Restoring the death penalty as a sentencing option for the most heinous murder convictions is not only about consequences for the murderer; it’s also about justice and closure for victims’ loved ones. Families affected by these exceptionally brutal crimes deserve to be able to work with prosecutors to seek the death penalty for their peace of mind and for the future safety of their communities.

Heinous murders are an everyday way of life; and in the worst cases, the death penalty is an appropriate way to deal with those who purposely, violently take innocent life.

My bill is still in the early stages of the legislative process. It has both Republican and Democrat sponsors. It’s sitting in the House Rules Committee, and I know that’s where it may remain. Still, I believe this issue deserves to be discussed and I will work with legislators on both sides of the aisle to move the discussion forward.

John M. Cabello is the state representative of the 68th District.

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