Thursday, 31 May 2007

Eric Zorn in the Chicago Tribune on LWoP

Eric Zorn in the Chicago Tribune on LWoP

Zorn is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. On his Tribune blog, Change of Subject, he has a post, "Giving new life to debate on the death penalty."

Many people were angry recently when a lone juror spared the life of convicted Brown's Chicken killer Juan Luna. They felt he deserved the death penalty for his role in the methodical slaughter of seven restaurant workers, and they wrote and called to tell me so.

I responded with my usual reassurance:

Luna, 33, was sentenced to life in prison. We don't need to kill him, because he'll never get out. Of Illinois' 1,422 inmates now serving so-called "natural life" sentences, not one has been paroled.

Parole hasn't even been a possibility for anyone sentenced since 1978 when the legislature eliminated parole-eligible sentences.

But I've since learned of an effort that undermines my reassurance and that has divided local activists committed to abolishing the death penalty:

On one side are those who argue that life without parole is a merciless and wasteful sentence, better than the death penalty but not by much.

And some local flavor:

Tellingly, the prime opponents of an effort to add a life-without-parole sentencing option in execution-happy Texas several years ago were prosecutors, who said they feared it would harm their ability to get death sentences.

Lawyers there told me this week that, since the option was added, anecdotal evidence suggests prosecutors have become increasingly willing to offer life sentences in plea bargains.

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