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Bill abolishing death penalty passes legislature

A bill abolishing Illinois' death penalty will soon be sent to Governor Pat Quinn. That's after the repeal passed the state Senate Tuesday afternoon in a 32-to-25 vote.

Quinn has not said whether he will sign the bill into law. His press secretary, Annie Thompson, said in an email that Quinn "plans to review the bill when it lands on his desk."

During the Senate debate, some lawmakers speaking out against abolishing the death penalty shared stories of vicious murders, many in which a child was killed. They said those situations warrant capital punishment.

"In these most serious cases, we need this tool on behalf of the citizens and behalf of the people of Illinois," said state Sen. Dave Syverson, a Republican from Rockford.

"You can name all of these horrific crimes. It's not about those. What about the ones who didn't do it?" asked state Sen. Rickey Hendon, a Democrat from Chicago who has long supported abolishing the death penalty. "Because when you put someone to death, it's too late."

Illinois has had a moratorium on executions for the past eleven years, after more than a dozen death row inmates were exonerated. The measure passed Tuesday would eliminate the state's death penalty altogether.

Some opponents said the moratorium meant there was no reason to rush. Republican state Sens. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale  and Linda Holmes of Aurora called for the issue to be decided directly by voters.

"I would like to give the people of Illinois the opportunity to make this decision themselves," Holmes said on the Senate floor. "Let's have them weigh-in on this. This could be put to referendum. Let's find out how they feel on this issue before we go ahead and make this decision for them."

"We are a representative democracy. We have a responsibility," Democratic state Sen. Kwame Raoul of Chicago told his colleagues.

"If you don't want to take responsibility in making these hard decisions, resign," said Raoul, who sponsored the legislation in the Senate.

The bill narrowly passed the Illinois House last week.

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