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When Governors Play God

When Governors Play God. (749 wds)

By Michael Reagan

I wonder if there's such a thing as an ex-governor's protection plan -- something like the federal witness protection program. If there is, the feds might want to enroll outgoingIllinois Governor George Ryan, - who may be facing indictment on federal charges - in such a program.

After all, there are probably at least500 people who are relatives or loved ones of the victims of some of those 164 death row convicts whose sentences the governor commuted to life in prison, and the three given shorter sentences who may someday walk out of prison as free as birds thanks to Governor Ryan.

The victims' families are outraged.

Vern Fueling, whose son William was shot and killed in 1985 by a man now on death row, for example, was infuriated when he learnedthat his son's killer would be allowed to live.

"My son is in the ground for 17 years and justice is not done," an angry Fueling told the Associated Press. "This is like a mockery."

Then there are the loved ones of the victims of Henry Brisbon , theinfamous "I-57 Killer" who committed a series of brutal slayings in 1973 along Interstate 57 south of Chicago, including one in which he forced an engaged couple to "kiss their last kiss" even as he shot them to death alongside the highway.

Jacqueline Williams wantedpeople think she gave birth to a babyso she, her boyfriend and a friend killed a pregnant woman and cut her full-term baby out of the murdered mother-to-be's womb.

Both these monsters were beneficiaries of Governor Ryan's commutation marathon, and the loved ones of their victims are undoubtedly seething with rage over the governor's actions.

Given that kind of sentiment, Ryan might be safer on the inside,than running around loose on the outside.

It wouldn't be too farfetched to suggest that Ryan - a former fervent capital punishment advocate - may have had motives other than a desire to clean up the death sentence mess in his state. For example, he might well be trying to soften the blow of an indictment -- if they try him now, he hopes they'll have to go easy on him because he's now shown that he's nice guy who has proved that he 'cares' -- he cares about the little guy - like Bill Clinton, he 'feels their pain.' But not, it seems, the pain of victims' families.

And ifhe ends up in a government housing project he'll have friends on the inside -- all those murderers he took off death row. Politicians hate to go to jail -- unless they can be sure they have friends there.

Ryan's argument is that there may be a few innocent people among the horde of barbarians sentenced to the death penalty, and therefor he's commuting the sentences of everybody on death row. He had pledged to review all the sentences on a case-by-case basis, and then he turned around and in one fell swoop simply threw everybody off death row regardless of the horrendous nature of their crimes.

Everybody knows that 99.99 percent of those people-, or even 100 percent, are flat out guilty of the crimes for which they were convicted. And he's letting them off. He says the system is broken, but what he did Saturday is what broke it.

In the case of the four cons that he pardoned, any crime they ever commit in the future, will be on his head. And if that does happen, he should be held just as accountable as the actual criminal.

Said Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine , the future of the four men should have been decided by the courts. He was right.In acting, Ryan simply ignored the judges and jurors who tried the cases and the police and prosecutors who were intimately involved in the cases and acted on their first hand knowledge.

As far as his claim thatthere are bad police who allegedly coerced or tortured some of these people to get them to make false confessions that ultimately convicted them, why nottake the police officers and those that were responsible for such miscarriages of justice and try them. There are, after all, laws against such misbehavior.

Try them, hold them accountable and teach them a lesson. But you teach nobody a lesson by commuting the sentences of known killers, and exonerating and kicking free others who are believed to be such.

He wasn't acting as governor, he was playing God.

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