Rauner puts focus back on residents, not criminals
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is speaking out for the rights of crime victims, making them the priority and reversing a trend in which the focus has been placed on the criminals. Suspects convicted of mass murder or killing law enforcement officers deserve the death penalty. Rauner should be hailed for his courageous move
By Ray Hanania
In 2000, besieged Illinois Governor George Ryan suspended the death penalty in Illinois asserting it was inhumane and would save the lives of criminals who were unfairly convicted. In 2011, Gov. Pat Quinn, trying to bolster his sagging leadership skills, abolished the death penalty.
And this week, Gov. Bruce Rauner showed courage to reinstate the death penalty and to put the focus not on the criminals but rather on the victims of gun violence. The majority of gun-related violence goes unpunished, and yes, occasionally because of police corruption or politically driven prosecutions, sometimes the wrong person is sent to death row.
But abolishing the death penalty is not the way to prevent injustice to the accused, but it is a way to minimize the importance of the victims.
Any person involved in the criminal killing of another person should be put to death, and those who murder law enforcement officers should have their death sentences expedited. If individuals are wrongly convicted, the prosecutors should be held accountable and punished for the wrongful convictions. And, if any law enforcement official is proven to have engaged in deceit in prosecuting a suspect, that law enforcement official should be forced to suffer the exact same sentence as the victim who was falsely accused and convicted because of false evidence.
We need to toughen the punishment for mass murder and the killing of law enforcement, and we also need to toughen the punishment for anyone who engages in perjury or falsifying charges against innocent suspects. What we don’t need to do is soften the punishment for these heinous crimes.
On Monday, May 14, 2018, Governor Bruce Rauner did what many elected officials are afraid to do, stand up for police, standup for lawn enforcement and stand up for the rights of victims in brutal crimes. Rauner asked the Illinois General Assembly to reinstate the death penalty for mass murderers and those who kill law enforcement officers.
The proposal is part of a precedent-setting public safety initiative that the Governor unveiled in an amendatory veto (AV) of House Bill 1468 which also urges legislators to:
• Extend the 72-hour waiting period for delivery of all gun purchases in Illinois.
• Ban bump stocks and trigger cranks.
• Authorize restraining orders to disarm dangerous individuals.
• Make judges and prosecutors more accountable by making them explain – on the record – why charges are reduced in plea agreements for violent offenders in gun cases.
• Free up local revenue to hire resource officers and mental health workers to help intervene and prevent student violence before it occurs.
“Gun violence has rocked the nation and our state,” Rauner said. “This is a responsible, bipartisan approach to the problem that will help ensure the safety and security of our children, our peacekeepers, our families, and our communities in Illinois.”
“Few crimes are more heinous than purposeful killings of children and peacekeepers,” Rauner said. “We didn’t propose the death penalty lightly. We had to balance the need for safety and, in the end, we wanted to make it abundantly clear we have no tolerance for such atrocities in Illinois.”
Rauner’s changes to HB 1468 create a new category of homicide called “death penalty murder.” It would apply to offenders 18 and over that prosecutors charge with killing peace officers or two or more people without lawful justification.
Guilt beyond all doubt
Defendants would be tried using a higher standard for determining guilt. Death penalty murder suspects would have to be convicted by juries “beyond all doubt,” not just “beyond a reasonable doubt” required for guilty findings of other criminal offenses.
Appeals courts would have to apply the same standard and conduct an independent review of the evidence with no deference paid to a jury’s decision.
“We want to raise the standard because we recognize legitimate concerns about the death penalty,” Rauner said. “We are intent on avoiding wrongful convictions and the injustice of inconsistency.”
72-hour wait for all guns, not just hand guns
In the AV of HB 1468, the Governor extended the 72-hour waiting period to the delivery of all guns sold in Illinois, not just certain types of guns. Current Illinois law applies the waiting period only to handguns.
“In the case of school or other mass shooters, a 72-hour waiting period may provide just enough time for law enforcement or school officials to detect danger and take action to prevent delivery of a firearm. In the case of someone who is suicidal, that time could mean the difference between life and death,” Rauner said.
Bump stock, trigger crank bans
The AV also reiterated the Governor’s support for a ban on bump stocks and trigger cranks. “These accessories that in the wrong hands can be used to assemble weapons of mass destruction,” Rauner said. The language he suggested is identical to Senate Bill 2343, which has not yet moved in the legislature.
Public safety and legal experts agree these accessories are not firearms, so the ban is not an infringement of 2nd Amendment gun rights.
Disarm the dangerous: Gun Violence Restraining Orders
The Governor’s AV includes a Gun Violence Restraining Order Act to more quickly disarm those who are a danger to themselves and others. It is a reasonable balance between the Second amendment and other rights of gun owners and the public interest in preventing gun violence.
An emergency order, triggered by family or law enforcement could prohibit gun possession for 14 days with probable cause. A search warrant to seize owned firearms could be initiated only by law enforcement based on probable cause. A six-month order prohibiting possession of a firearm could be entered only after a full hearing based on clear and convincing evidence of danger.
“We need a streamlined mechanism to allow family members and others to flag the need to remove firearms from the hands of people who pose an immediate and present threat to the public or themselves,” Rauner said.
“At the same time, we must protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners and ensure speedy resolution of the issue requiring clear and convincing evidence,” Rauner said.
“Catch and release” transparency
The AV asks the General Assembly to pass a Gun Crime Charging and Sentencing Accountability and Transparency Act. Rauner believes citizens, particularly victims and victims’ families, ought to know why charges are reduced in plea agreements for violent offenders in gun cases.
The Act requires prosecutors and judges to clearly state – for the record – the rationale for plea agreements, especially those that result in the release of habitual gun offenders. “We deserve to know how violent offenders are allowed back on our streets,” Rauner said.
School Safety: new resources to protect students
Finally, Rauner’s AV amends the County School Facilities Sales Tax statute to let school authorities use the revenue to hire school resource officers or mental health workers based on local determinations of need. It is drawn from the Governor’s Terrorism Task Force and has been favorably received by the Legislative Public Safety Working Group. The Working Group continues to meet and is expected to deliver additional recommendations.
“This is the kind of bipartisan public safety discretion that voters ought to have,” Rauner said. “This use of this sales tax revenue, provided it is approved by referendum, is a sensible step toward providing adequate security for our schools and giving more local control to our communities.”
More on Governor’s public safety initiatives
Rauner’s public safety package includes other substantive proposals that cover interstate gun trafficking countermeasures, increased state trooper deployments, and additional threat precautions and deterrents for Illinois schools. The latter includes formation of regional threat assessment teams to help “harden” potential targets.
The package fulfills the Governor’s pledge to deliver a comprehensive public safety package as a response to the mass killings in Parkland, FL, last winter.