(FinalCall.com) – In an extremely difficult decision that he took three years to reach, Illinois Governor George Ryan commuted the death sentences of 167 inmates. They now will spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

The decision lifted the spirits of many of those on Death Row who proclaim they are innocent of the crime. Their families rejoiced at the announcement. Nevertheless, there are some on Illinois Death Row who confess their guilt and say they would rather face the ultimate punishment rather than spend the rest of their lives confined.

On the other hand, a hue and cry arose from the many family members of victims who were brutally murdered. They argued that the governor did not feel their pain; that they now will never have closure to their hurt.


While we believe as the Holy Qur’an and Bible dictates, that there are instances and reasons for imposing the ultimate penalty, we also know that in the United States of America, the Black and the poor do not get equal justice and are oftentimes railroaded into confinement or beaten into giving a confession for something they did not do. There is no doubt that innocent people, especially Black people, have been executed since the reinstatement of the death penalty.

Gov. Ryan addressed all of these discrepancies about the application of justice during two speeches in which he announced the Death Row pardons and clemency. In fact, the best thing that Gov. Ryan did for this country in this case is lift up the question of justice and who lives and dies by execution in America for national and worldwide debate and, hopefully, force legislatures to deal with it.

The fact that the “system is broken”–as Gov. Ryan repeated on numerous occasions during his speeches–and politicians don’t seem to be interested in fixing it is exemplified in the fact that it took the investigation of a team of student journalists at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., to clear some of the Death Row inmates who have been released over the last few years. In establishing the innocence of these inmates, the students viewed the same evidence and testimony that prosecutors were privy to. They just approached the mission with justice in mind–free the innocent, confine the guilty.

Jailhouse informants, all-White juries for Black defendants, zealous and crooked prosecutors are all reasons given by the governor that have lead to innocent people being on Death Row.

“Three times I proposed reforming the system with a package that would restrict the use of jailhouse snitches, create a statewide panel to determine death-eligible cases, reduce the number of crimes eligible for death. …Because our thee-year study has found only more questions about the fairness of the sentencing; because of the spectacular failure to reform the system; because we have seen justice delayed for countless Death Row inmates with potentially meritorious claims; and because the Illinois death penalty system is arbitrary and capricious–and therefore immoral–I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death. …

“The legislature couldn’t reform it. Lawmakers won’t repeal it. And I won’t stand for it. I had to act,” said Gov. Ryan.

With those words the debate on the fairness of the Death Penalty touched the ear of every nation. In a world where color, class, economic status and other subjective variables come into play in determining who lives or dies, every nation needed to hear his words.

And the justice systems of every nation are in need of repair. Let the fixing begin before executions continue.