Ms. SCHAKOWSKY. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to celebrate the enactment of Illinois Senate Bill 3539, which abolishes the death penalty in Illinois. As a lifelong resident of Illinois, I want to thank Governor Quinn and each and every state legislator who courageously voted for this important bill.
I strongly oppose the death penalty because I have always believed that the government should never take a person's life as punishment for a crime. This is especially true in our judicial system which is wrought with inequity and unfairness that can lead to the conviction of innocent people. In fact, since 1977, 20 people sentenced to death in the state of Illinois were ultimately exonerated. This is a shameful record that troubles me deeply. Imagine if any of these persons were executed before evidence could be presented to prove their innocence.
The enactment of Senate Bill 3539 in Illinois is a tremendous step forward for justice. Already, Illinois had set an important example for the rest of the country, when in 2000, it placed a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. Today, with the stroke of his pen Governor Quinn has helped turn the tide against the use of capital punishment in America and I sincerely hope that other states will soon follow.
Mr. Speaker, the existence of the death penalty is not necessary to ensure that the most heinous crimes go punished and I will continue to fight for a fair justice system that does not use death as a means of achieving justice.