From the blog Capital Defense Weekly :
A quick primer on Obama in the death penalty that appeared some time ago in the Washington Post. “In a nutshell: He’s pro-death penalty but he is also pro-let’s not execute the wrong guy”
Five years later, Obama waded into a complex capital-punishment debate after a number of exonerations persuaded then-Gov. George Ryan (R) to empty death row.
Obama wrote in his recent memoir that he thinks the death penalty “does little to deter crime.” But he supports capital punishment in cases “so heinous, so beyond the pale, that the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage by meting out the ultimate punishment.”
In proposing changes, Obama met repeatedly with officials and advocates on all sides. He nudged and cajoled colleagues fearful of being branded soft on crime, as well as death-penalty opponents worried that any reform would weaken efforts to abolish capital punishment.
Obama’s signature effort was a push for mandatory taping of interrogations and confessions. It was opposed by prosecutors, police organizations and Ryan’s successor, Democrat Rod Blagojevich, who said it would impede investigators.
Working under the belief that no innocent defendant should end up on death row and no guilty one should go free, Obama helped get the bill approved by the Senate on a 58 to 0 vote. When Blagojevich reversed his position and signed it, Illinois became the first state to require taping by statute.
“Obviously, we didn’t agree all the time, but he would always take suggestions when they were logical, and he was willing to listen to our point of view. And he offered his opinions in a lawyerly way,” said Carl Hawkinson, the retired Republican chairman o the Judiciary Committee. “When he spoke on the floor of the Senate, he spoke out of conviction. You knew that, whether you agreed with him or disagreed with him.”