Actually he did more. The bill he signed wiped out the death penalty prospectively. What of the 15 men on death row? He commuted their sentences.
This is, of course, the second time that an Illinois governor has emptied death row. George Ryan did it about 11 years ago. First, his moratorium stopped the killing. Then he commuted the sentences of almost 170 men and women (granting full pardons to 4 of them). But while the moratorium stayed in place, the row repopulated.
And there are, maybe, ripples.
Serious hearings on abolition are going on in Connecticut right now, where the legislature voted abolition a couple of years ago but the governor vetoed. This governor will sign if a bill gets to him.
In Montana, the state Senate just voted an abolition bill. It's now up to the house and the governor.
All of which leads to an important point.
New Mexico has 2 people on death row. (Governor Richardson did not empty the row when he signed that state's abolition bill.) It had executed only 1. New Jersey had only 10 people on its death row and hadn't killed anyone for decades. Connecticut has 11 on the row, and the only person it killed was an assisted suicide. Montana has 2 on the row and has killed 3.
But Illinois has been a major death penalty state. Executed 12 before the moratorium. Placed significant numbers on the row, 15 since Ryan emptied it. Abolition there is bigger because the death penalty is bigger.
Meanwhile, though, there's Ohio.
Johnnie Baston is to be murdered tomorrow morning. They've fiddled the protocol a bit this week, but that won't stop the killing.
It will be number 43 for the Buckeyes.
The second this year.
Eight more scheduled before the year is out.
Two already lined up for 2012.
Governor Quinn, again.
Good for him.
Ultimately, good for all of us.