Death Penalty on Trial. Crisis in American Justice by Bill Kurtis

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By Bill Kurtis

True crime investigative reporter invoice Kurtis tackles his greatest case yet—the dying penalty—and indicates us why it needs to be abolished from our justice method

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Justice delayed is justice denied, he said. Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine took issue with Ryan’s decision saying, “All of these cases would have been best left for consideration by the courts, which have the experience, the training, and the wisdom to decide innocence or guilt. ” Governor Ryan stood fast. He had chosen a path few politicians have ever had the fortitude to tread, to stand tall in opposition to the legal establishment. And yes, it was all the more remarkable because he was not a lawyer but a citizen who saw injustice being committed and decided to stop it.

Richard Speck was a petty criminal who worked in the merchant marines when he docked in Chicago and spent the day with a bottle of cheap wine in the blue-collar neighborhood of East Chicago. Someone told him of a possible score in a townhouse full of student nurses. He slipped in through a screened window and waited as they came home from work. One by one over a seven-hour period, he knifed and strangled seven young women. When police arrived to investigate they had to put a wooden plank across the floor so they wouldn’t lose their footing in inch-thick blood.

New studies of the legal system contributed to a rising tide of concern across the United States. Professor James Liebman of Columbia University School of Law studied twenty-three years of capital cases and found reversible error in seven of every ten capital sentences. ” When Professor Liebman looked at Illinois, he found the overall rate of serious error in capital sentences to be 66 percent, slightly lower than the national average of 68 percent. ” 1 The Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law came to the same conclusion.

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