Year of Reenactment
(since 1972 suspension)
Year of First Execution
(since reenactment)
Year of Abolition

1839-1926: hanging

1927-1982: electrocution

1983-present: lethal injection

2011: abolished


Illinois has life without parole. A jury decides the sentence.  The Governor has clemency authority over all offenses. The Governor receives non-binding recommendations from the State Prisoner Review Board. Illinois passed a bill abolishing the death penalty in the state in March, 2011.

Illinois has had more exonerations (18) than executions (12). Four inmates were released in 2003: Aaron Patterson, Madison Hobley, Leroy Orange, and Stanley Howard, all of whom were pardoned by Governor Ryan on January 11, 2003. The next day, Ryan granted clemency to the remaining 167 inmates on Illinois' death row, reducing their sentences to life. The moratorium placed on executions by Ryan in 2000 in response to the high number of mistakes discovered in death row cases was still in place as of September 2006.

Anthony Porter came within hours of execution in 1998 and was only spared because questions about his mental capacity convinced a judge to delay his execution.  In the interim, investigators and students working with Northwestern University's School of Journalism discovered the real killer, who confessed on videotape.  Porter was immediately released and all charges were dropped.

The legislature established a state-funded program for financial assistance at the trial level for death penalty cases.  The funds will assist both prosecution and defense.  Other proposals are under consideration.

According to a 2000 poll by the Chicago Tribune, support for the death penalty in Illinois has dropped 13 percentage points in the last five years, and a majority of voters (54%) favors a moratorium on all executions in the state.  Fewer than half of the respondents—49%—said they believe the death penalty deters crime.

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