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Illinois Governor Commutes Death Sentences - 2003-01-11

In an unprecedented move, the governor of U.S. midwestern state of Illinois has commuted the death sentences of all of his state's more than 150 death row inmates.

Governor George Ryan said almost all of the inmates will now serve life sentences because his state's death penalty system is deeply flawed.

"How many more cases of wrongful conviction have to occur, before we can all agree, that this system in Illinois is broken," he said.

In a speech Saturday in Chicago, Governor Ryan said the system is capricious and arbitrary.

He said the United State is out of step with its allies around the world in allowing the death penalty.

The governor received a call from former South African leader Nelson Mandela and a letter from Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu this week before making his decisions for clemency.

Mr. Ryan, whose term as governor ends Monday, has raised serious questions about the administration of the death penalty since taking office.

His reviews of the legal system have prompted new questions about capital punishment in other states.