The Governor of Illinois has now signed the bill adopted a few weeks ago by the State legislatures that abolishes capital punishment. Here is the Governor's statement.
Illinois is a big and important state, the fifth largest in the United States, and this development should not be underestimated as a sign of changing attitudes. Only a few years ago, we spoke of 37 US states that still had the death penalty, and now it is 34. If the number declines further, it will open the door to a challenge before the Supreme Court aimed at declaring the death penalty unconstitutional. In the past, the Court has viewed changes at the state level as important indicators of the 'evolving standards of decency' that underpin a progressive interpretation of the eighth amendment. This should motivate campaigners in other states in the United States, who will appreciate how seemingly small victories at the local level can contribute to judicial abolition at the national level.
The story of the abolition in Illinois would make a great doctoral thesis (and book).
Thanks to Megan Fairlie, Sean O'Brien and Mark Warren.