Gov. Bruce Rauner today asked the Illinois General Assembly to reinstate the death penalty for mass murderers and those who kill law enforcement officers.
The proposal is part of a precedent-setting public safety initiative that the Governor unveiled in an amendatory veto (AV) of House Bill 1468.
Rauner’s changes to HB 1468 create a new category of homicide called “death penalty murder.” It would apply to offenders 18 and over that prosecutors charge with killing peace officers or two or more people without lawful justification.
“Few crimes are more heinous than purposeful killings of children and peacekeepers,” Rauner said. “We didn’t propose the death penalty lightly. We had to balance the need for safety and, in the end, we wanted to make it abundantly clear we have no tolerance for such atrocities in Illinois.”
Defendants would be tried using a higher standard for determining guilt. Death penalty murder suspects would have to be convicted by juries “beyond all doubt,” not just “beyond a reasonable doubt” required for guilty findings of other criminal offenses.
Appeals courts would have to apply the same standard and conduct an independent review of the evidence with no deference paid to a jury’s decision.
“We want to raise the standard because we recognize legitimate concerns about the death penalty,” Rauner said. “We are intent on avoiding wrongful convictions and the injustice of inconsistency.”