Illinois Capital Punishment Laws

In Illinois, capital punishment laws were not enforced after Gov. George Ryan (1999-2003) imposed a moratorium in 2000, citing flaws in the system (including wrongful convictions and inadequate defenses).

In a 2011 closed-door ceremony, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill that made Illinois the 16th state to abolish the death penalty.

In 2000, then Republican Gov. George Ryan's moratorium on executions was born out of the fear of executing the innocent. Ryan had been an ardent supporter of the death penalty, but changed his mind when he saw a rising number of exonerations of death row inmates in Illinois courts.

Before the moratorium, Illinois had executed 360 people, 358 men and two women since 1779 when a man named “Manuel” was convicted of witchcraft and burned at the stake, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The first execution after Illinois became a state was John Killduck who was hanged for murder on July 14, 1819. Illinois used hanging has its method of capital punishment until 1928. From that point until 1962, criminals were electrocuted. The state did not kill another person until 1990 when it used lethal injection.

Since the early 1600s, there have been more than 15,700 executions recorded on American soil. More than half of those deaths were by hanging. The biggest number of executions in one year happened in 1935, when 149 people were electrocuted, 45 hanged and three sent to the gas chamber. Virginia has conducted the most executions in U.S. history with 1,385, followed by Texas with 1,221.

The final execution in Illinois happened on March 7, 1999 when the state sent to death a man accused of taking part in the kidnappings, rapes and mutilation murders of 18 women.

Learn more about Illinois capital punishment laws (or the lack thereof) by following the links below. Check out FindLaw's Death Penalty section for more details about the history of capital punishment in the U.S.

Code Section -
Is Capital Punishment Allowed? No
Effect of Defendant's Incapacity -
Minimum Age -
Available for Crimes Other than Homicide? -
Definition of Capital Homicide -
Method of Execution -

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact an Illinois criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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