NAACP Statement on Commutation of Illinois Death Sentences

By Julian Bond | July 7, 2008 | 8:20 PM EDT

(Editor's note: Julian Bond, chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), issued the following statement regarding Illinois Gov. George Ryan's decision to commute the death sentences of death row inmates.)

Congratulations to outgoing Illinois Gov. George Ryan for his brave action in pardoning four men forced to confess to crimes they did not commit and commuting to life in prison the sentences of 167 others on Illinois' death row. Ryan was convinced by evidence demonstrating the fallibility of the criminal justice system, where racial prejudice and human error can and do decide who lives or dies.

His actions stand in stark contrast to those of incoming Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich, who cavalierly dismissed a careful study in his state demonstrating that geography and the race of the victim are strong determinants of whether prosecutors
will seek the death penalty. His predecessor, Parris Glendenning, had imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in Maryland; despite clear evidence of racial bias, Ehrlich has declared his intention to resume Maryland's march toward death.