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Old 07-29-2003, 02:07 PM
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Default Part of Death Penalty Reform Is Vetoed (Illinois)

Part of Death Penalty Reform Is Vetoed

CHICAGO (AP) - Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Tuesday vetoed a section of a complex legislative package aimed at reforming the state's flawed capital punishment system, saying he approved of all aspects of it except a section providing sanctions for perjury by individual police officers.

The partial veto sends the matter back to the state Legislature. The state's struggles with the death penalty have made headlines nationwide for the past three years.

Deputy Gov. Bradley Tusk said Blagojevich signed the bill, but later clarified that he actually signed a veto message supporting everything in the legislation except the perjury provision, which would take away badges of police officers if a review board found they had committed perjury in a homicide case.

Tusk said the governor thought that provision was unfair to police because it lowered the standard of proof for wrongdoing by an officer.

The amendatory veto sends the whole bill back to the Legislature for consideration during its fall session.

The bill's main sponsor, Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said he expected the Legislature to override the governor's veto in the fall. Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the bill in their spring session.

Two weeks ago the governor had signed a related reform law making Illinois the first state to mandate that police tape interrogations and confessions in murder cases.

The state's proposed reform package is the centerpiece of an effort to transform the state's flawed capital punishment system into a national model. Blagojevich called it ``an important step to try to build trust and integrity into our criminal justice system.''

The legislation would allow judges to rule out the death penalty in cases that rest largely on a single eyewitness or informant, allow the state Supreme Court to overturn death sentences it deems ``fundamentally unjust'' and require juries to consider more mitigating factors before imposing the penalty.

Flaws in Illinois' death penalty system have been in the spotlight since 2000, when former Gov. George Ryan halted executions after 13 men on death row were found to have been wrongly convicted.

Ryan emptied death row before leaving office in January, pardoning four men he believed were innocent and commuting the death sentences of 167 others to life in prison.

The proposed reforms address many of the recommendations that a commission formed by Ryan suggested last spring after two years of study.
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