Governor Patt Quinn is pondering whether to sign or veto a bill that would abolish the death penalty in Illinois.  Thus far Quinn, a Democrat and a self-identified supporter of capital punishment, has honored his pledge to continue the state-wide moratorium on executions that began in 2000 under Republican Governor George Ryan. After 13 men on death row were wrongfully convicted, Ryan imposed the nation’s first moratorium on the death penalty in response to what he called a ”shameful record of convicting innocent people and putting them on death row”.

But not everyone in Illinois believes that the flaws in system merit outright abolition.  Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, also a Democrat and a former prosecutor, believes, along with greater use of DNA testing, the death penalty should still be used for those convicted of the worst kinds of crimes.

“I believe in the death penalty. That doesn’t mean there’s not imperfections in it. That means you can perfect it. That’s why we need more DNA testing,” Daley said. “It should be a right to DNA test.”

It’s unclear what or when Quinn will make a decision but he has told reporters that he will follow his conscience.  If the governor does nothing, a historic bill recently passed by the Illinois legislature aimed at abolishing the death penalty will automatically become law after 60 days.

According to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, 15 states and the District of Colombia and Puerto Rico no longer have the death penalty.  But another 35 states still continue to use it.

A late 1990s Gallup poll found that when punishing those convicted of murder, 61 percent thought imposing the death penalty was a better solution than lifetime imprisonment without the possibility of parole compared to 29 percent who thought the reverse was true.  By November 2010, the same survey found only 49 percent of the country thought capital punishment was a better approach compared to 46 percent who favored lifetime imprisonment instead.