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Editorial: Closer to liberty and justice for all

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

The Illinois Senate’s vote on Tuesday to end the death penalty was a historic moment for justice.

If Gov. Quinn signs the bill, no longer will innocent men be marched off to Death Row, as has happened too many times.

And our state, as Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) declared, will have joined on this issue with the “civilized world.”

Doubts about the death penalty have been growing for years as glaring miscarriages of justice became clear in case after case.

† Rolando Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez were sentenced to death on evidence that looked flimsy from the start. They were cleared only after DNA evidence emerged.

† Coercion, perjury and false expert testimony were used against Dennis Williams and Verneal Jimerson, two of the so-called Ford Heights Four. It took almost two decades to exonerate them.

† Statements Gary Gauger made that authorities twisted into a “confession” sent him to Death Row. It took him almost a decade to be pardoned.

Those are just five of the 20 men who have been freed from Death Row in recent years — a sorry parade of belated exonerations that can come to an end the moment Gov. Quinn picks up his pen and signs the bill.

Tuesday’s Senate vote nearly completes a process that former Gov. George Ryan, to his great credit, put into motion 11 years ago in Illinois when he commuted all death sentences to prison time and instituted a moratorium on capital punishment.

Get out your pen, Gov. Quinn. The historic moment is here.

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