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updated: 1/11/2013 4:30 PM

Friday marks a decade since Ryan emptied death row

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  • Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan called for a moratorium on executions in Pennsylvania at a rally on Oct. 11, 2003.

      Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan called for a moratorium on executions in Pennsylvania at a rally on Oct. 11, 2003.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

KANKAKEE -- It was 10 years ago that former Gov. George Ryan commuted the sentences of 167 Illinois death row inmates.

Friday's anniversary marks one decade since Ryan said he had to act because Illinois' capital system was "haunted by the demon of error." The now-imprisoned former governor made his announcement in a speech at Northwestern University's law school on Jan. 11, 2003. He said the state's justice system made errors determining guilt and errors determining who among the guilty deserved to die.

The Republican was replaced as governor two days later by Democrat Rod Blagojevich, who also is now in prison.

Rob Warden is executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions. He told The (Kankakee) Daily Journal that Ryan "set off a national movement focused on the death penalty."

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