Congressman Bobby Rush

Representing the 1st District of Illinois

Rep. Rush Holds Congressional Hearing On Flawed Death Penalty System

Feb 3, 2003
Press Release

Chicago, IL ---- U.S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) held a Congressional field hearing to gather information on the flaws in the death penalty system in Illinois and the nation. Joined by several Members of the Illinois delegation, Rep. Rush heard testimony from expert witnesses who, through years of advocacy or personal experience, have uncovered major flaws and inequities in Illinois' system. Too often, this system put innocent people on death row. Some of the witnesses included Illinois' former Governor George Ryan, retired Senator Paul Simon, and recently exonerated prisoners, Aaron Paterson and Leroy Orange.

    The recent, unprecedented action George Ryan took, of commuting the death sentences of all death row inmates to life in prison, is one Rep. Rush strongly supported. "I have always believed that using the death penalty as a form of punishment is not punishment at all, but rather murder executed by the state." Rep. Rush continued, "That is why I want to build on the momentum of reexamination that exists here in Illinois and develop national legislation that will protect innocent people from a faulty system." The Congressional hearing is his first step in the process of moving the discussion from Illinois to the halls of Congress.

    Rep. Rush and his Illinois colleagues, Reps. Danny Davis, Jan Schakowsky, and Jesse Jackson, Jr., listened to powerful testimony that revealed well-documented cases of police torture used to extract false confessions from innocent people, inadequate legal representation for defendants, shoddy work by overzealous prosecutors, and an inequitable application of the death penalty sentence. "Our system is fraught with problems on every level and these problems are not unique to Illinois. That is why I believe that each state, with a death penalty system in place, should take the time to, at the very least, reexamine their process," said Rep. Rush. Presently, 38 states and the federal government, still utilize the death penalty system.

The Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), issued a statement commending the efforts of Rep. Rush. "It is critical that we continue to debate and discuss the application of the death penalty. There have been too many instances where people condemned to die have been exonerated. On behalf of the Members of the CBC, I would like to applaud the efforts of U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush," Rep. Cummings stated.