April 25, 2002
Vol. 21 No. 14

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    Capital punishment report to be discussed by panel

    By Peter Schuler
    News Office

    After two years of deliberation, the 15-member Commission on Capital Punishment appointed by Illinois Gov. George Ryan, released on Monday, April 15, its long-awaited final report, which includes more than 80 recommendations for changes to the state’s capital punishment system.

    Commission co-chair Thomas Sullivan of the law firm of Jenner and Block and a former United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, will moderate a Monday, May 6 panel at the University’s Law School to discuss the report’s findings.

    The event has been named the Hans Zeisel Commemorative Program, which will honor the memory of Zeisel, the late Law School faculty member and European-trained lawyer who became a leading American social science researcher. With his equally renowned Law School colleague Harry Kalven, Zeisel, who died in 1992, was the author of the landmark 1966 study The American Jury, an analysis of the use of statistical and quantitative methods in the courtroom.

    The Hans Zeisel Commemorative Program will include Tracey Meares, Professor in the Law School and Director of the Center for Studies in Criminal Justice; Frank McGarr, former Chief Judge of the Federal District Court of the Northern District of Illinois and Commission co-chair; U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, Director of the Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University and Commission co-chair; and Commission member Michael Waller, State’s Attorney of Lake County.

    The Commission on Capital Punishment spent the past two years intensely scrutinizing Illinois’ system, from initial police investigation through trial, appeal and post-conviction review. The report makes over 80 recommendations, including the creation of a statewide panel to review prosecutors’ requests for the death penalty; the banning of death sentences for the mentally retarded; significant reduction in the number of death eligibility factors; videotaping of interrogations of homicide suspects; and controlling the use of testimony of jail house informants. The Commission’s report is now available online at http://www.idoc.state.il.us/ccp/ccp/reports/commission_reports.html.

    “The Commission’s work represents a major achievement in criminal justice reform and will help ensure that the state’s capital punishment system provides fair and accurate results, should the legislature adopt the Commission’s proposed measures,” said Meares, a former federal prosecutor whose research focuses on criminal procedure and criminal law policy.

    The Hans Zeisel Memorial Panel on the Illinois Capital Punishment Commission Report will be held from 4 to 6 p.m., in the Weymouth Kirkland Courtroom in the Law School. The event is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.