News Release

Illinois commutations can benefit even victims, lead to better U.S. international relations

Life without parole can be worse than painless death  

Washington, DC (January 11, 2003) -- In response to today's commutation by Illinois Gov. George Ryan (who received NACDL's Champion of Justice award and addressed the luncheon at NACDL's Fall Meeting in Chicago this past November) of the remaining 156 death sentences in that state to life without parole, Lawrence Goldman, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, issued the following statement:

"While we understand that this is a time of anguish for many members of the families of victims of these inmates, we hope they will find solace in not being asked be involved in at attempt to kill again to show that killing is wrong. We also hope they benefit from not having to deal with the ongoing legal battles, and ultimately an execution, which would have forced them to relive painful memories. Perhaps they will also get some satisfaction from knowing that those inmates who are guilty must live, largely alone and under horrible conditions, in contemplation of their own crimes.

"We also hope that as Americans consider this momentous action, we can soon reach the same conclusion that most of the rest of the advanced world has reached: that even if we could be sure that the death penalty deters, even though studies say it does not; that even if the vengeance of the death penalty somehow satisfies many victims and officials alike; and that even if death truly were a more fitting punishment than life in a cage, the cost of the death penalty to our humanity and the risks of error in a system incapable of perfection and fairness are just too great. Such an appreciation of life can only help us if we truly wish to achieve peace in a troubled world.

"Finally, to Gov. Ryan and all the NACDL members and others who worked to make this day a reality, we simply say, 'Thank you.'" 

Goldman is a criminal defense lawyer in New York City. He can be reached at (917) 816-4635.

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NACDL Communications Department

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.